Aim lower

March 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

Posted elsewhere, long enough to reference here.

I wish I had more time to articulate this, but I don’t. So, I am gonna put this out there and not gripe about tangents.

There is a spectrum of technology users. Any piece of tech is likely created by someone more advanced on the spectrum that the target demographic of users. That demographic can be really wide, and may encompass a higher level than the creator, but for web software, due to its ubiquitous nature and the huge usage rate, most of the demographic is less advanced.

That means that for any web software, the developers are among the most privileged users. While it certainly doesn’t feel like it, they have the most time and effort to dedicate to the project, given their circumstances. It is important that tools be created in their toolbox to help them, but those tools will likely also be part of their privilege.

The folks that can go from server provision to a document served in a web browser is relatively few. And the way we talk about our tools, it leaves the people I care about out, because they can’t manage anymore effort, time or money than what is offered in one-click installs and proprietary web panels. But if as a society we have chosen to move our information online (and I think that is a good idea), then everyone also deserves to have an equal voice.

I was homeless. When I was homeless, I learned how to make websites, because I had a public library with computers in the first years web mail became available; I am perhaps part of the first generation that was allowed that luxury, the decoupling of wealth and expression. We all (in this forum) agree that we don’t want corporations to own our digital culture. But I think we really need to aim lower in the spectrum if we want to build the tools of expression for the web today. If the so-called “hacker ethic” says we build software in a way that leaves people behind, it is useless and should be abandoned.

I would love for every person to have their own secure, decentralized and portable server, but I build websites for people who need to find food, housing and work, and I obviously think those are more important than personal servers. PHP powers the web that I know helps people. It doesn’t exclude other languages, but to disparage it because it doesn’t fit the tool set shows a bias of privilege that ignores the vast, ongoing, happening-right-now benefits of the web we have. Python, Ruby and Node can overtake it, and it appears like great strides are being made to overcome the weak tools of the past. But until a tired parent can come home from less than living wage job and share their pictures with their extended family with the same or less amount of effort it takes to sign up for Facebook, those languages and their projects don’t hold a flame to insecure, buggy, one-click installed, outdated, shared-hosting blogs.

Aim lower. We need all the help we can get down here.

Civic email

March 27, 2014 — 1 Comment


That image is what I see when Representative Barbara Lee’s office sends me email. We were talking about this recently. I don’t consider this message spam, although I haven’t taken the time to parse it, either. There should be a text version of this message. Or, ya know, published on the web somewhere.

Something funny is the links to the social sharing icons. First of all, I am not going to “friend” Lee. Government officials should not use corporate social networks to connect with their constituents, it is a conflict of interest. But the funny bit is the URL:

I read that as “spyfile”, obviously my brain fixing their typo.

Edit: OMFG, this is the second page! Yep, not reading.


Clover just figured out how to open the fridge. The beginning of an era…

I haven’t heard back from the FSF, but I’ve been thinking about how I present myself to folks in a professional capacity. Since Impact Hub Oakland has opened I’ve been meeting lots of folks who ask me if I make “apps”, by which they mean for mobile devices. Sometimes they mean “webapps”, which I don’t know, is like a social network or other tracking site that collects information about users. I point out that I provide infrastructure and other things to orgs that need a clean, straightforward way to communicate their message. And I support the whole stack, registration, server stuff, even copy editing.

I may have a big gig coming up in the next few months, and it will give me some downtime afterwards. I intend to use that to develop my site and services, to hone in on the software and user cases that I want to support, and write some documentation explaining why I do what I do.

I think “webcraft” explains what I do well, but it also includes all kinds of communication tools that people may not expect, like email and jabber. I tend to think of the web on many levels and contexts, and my elevator pitch may not be getting that across. I don’t think it suffers for that (I have terrific client conversion rates!), but I’d like to start doing more projects that make me come alive, things I can get excited about.

I am going to get some business cards made soon (I’ve resisted for so long, but I keep running into people that want to talk about free software in passing), and it will read as such:


webcrafter, free software consultant

How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation? MediaGoblin: Decentralized Social Media Publishing for Everyone!

Clover, in the sling

Clover used to be so little…

Wasn’t worth it

March 18, 2014 — 2 Comments

Today Clover was using a chair to get flowers from a glass vase. When I told em to get down e started frantically trying to put the flower back in. I got scared, and reacted in a way that I knew would paralyze Clover, because it works on most humans: I yelled in a specific, scary way.

Clover cried and ran to Susan.

It is the most violent act I committed against em, and perhaps the most violent in all, aside from gravity or sharp corners. Nobody felt good about it, we were all left less happy.

I am observing this here for reference. Humans are fragile, wired for adversity, and ultimately lead meaningless lives with the exception of the connection we make with each other. As morbid as it sounds, I think it would have been better for Clover to cut eir hand on the vase.

An egg cream is not a root beer float. A root beer float is what I am having, now.

They stopped for a while, but I am glad they are back, even if they are quarterly. The speakers are always very interesting!

This one is Thursday next, March 27. Details on their blahg. ^_^

New wiki notice

March 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

I sent this out to the users that registered with an email address on maiwiki:

Hiya! This is maiki, the one that runs this wiki. I recently found that the database has so many bot registrations, it is now 17GB! While we don’t have an issue with spam in the articles, I did run out of hard drive space, so I am going to start over with a new wiki instance.

My plan is to migrate all the content over from this wiki to a new one, and turn off user registration. I will manually add folks to the wiki that wants to edit it, which has only been a handful of us, and that should take care of it.

I would also like to relicense everything under CC0 ( The current wiki is CC-BY-SA. The reason is that most of the content on the wiki is created by me, and I want to dedicate it to the commons.

If you do not want your content relicensed with CC0, please let me know and I will remove your contributions from the new wiki. ^_^