This was the opening to the most recent episode of the Simpsons, a kind of meta-homage to the countless opening videos made in Minecraft. Wanted to show Kevin, blurry because I don’t know very much about video conversion. ^_^

This is the message I got from LG to repair a busted screen on Susan‘s Nexus 5.

First, in mutt.

LG message in mutt

That wasn’t working, so I switched to K-9 Mail on my tablet.

LG message in K9

Two things I’ve learned:

  1. LG hasn’t really figured out email.
  2. I only use dog-themed email clients.

Smut Peddler 2014

April 7, 2014 — Leave a comment


I’ve stuck to my policy of only supporting crowd-funding campaigns of works that are free and in the commons. One of the projects that I make an exception for is Smut Peddler, which has a 2014 campaign. Despite not being free to use in creative ways, it is erotica that is women-created and -friendly. The first issue was great, and is included in some of the award tiers. Check it out! ^_^

I had a similar experience to this recently.

Oakland Police Beat

Oakland Police Beat has launched. Susan Mernit explains what the site is about. You should go poke around, see what it is all about. ^_^

It is a WordPress site, and the data is stored in custom post types and taxonomies. All the software that composes the site is free and open source (and I will be providing a writeup of all the great projects we used soon). Bernard is interesting.

Susan Magnolia created the logo, visually showing OPB as an extension of the Oakland Local family.

Pods + maps

April 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

Someone is asking about some difficult MySQL mapping stuff, I don’t understand it, but I do know of a relatively easier way to get custom post types, such as those created by Pods, onto a map in WordPress. I built this for Live Work Oakland, so I remembered the steps, and I sat down and cranked this out in about 30 minutes: Pods + Geo Mashup.

The CPT is called Location, and has three additional meta fields added: Address, City, and Zip Code. The issue folks were having in the forum thread was how to show it on a map, and for that I used another (terrific) plugin, Geo Mashup. One of the settings for that plugin is this ingenious reverse geocoding feature, which will construct the address from an array of fields you designate. This screenshot shows how it is configured on the lab site:


The map page is just the map shortcode showing all posts with location data (the lab site is configured to only show the Location post type, but you can be creative with it). For LWO I built it into the theme, so it shows on individual listings automatically. Check the documentation, it is a pretty nifty plugin!

If you want to try it out, add a location! That bit is done with Gravity Forms and an add-on plugin that allows you to save it to custom post types. I only included a few address fields, so some locations may not show up correctly on the map, but this is only a demo. Also, you’d want to show the custom fields on the individual location posts, but that is a different tutorial. If you don’t want to mess with a lot of custom coding, these plugins can do the heavy lifting for ya. ^_^

Here is the Location custom post type export from Pods: location.pods (copy the contents of the file and import, or just add the three fields yerself!)

Plugins used:

Proving the point

March 31, 2014 — Leave a comment

Susan Mernit wrote her impressions of a party she attended; she had a poor experience, and described her observations. If you follow any of the -isms in tech, this will not be news to you. For me the most significant part is that this happens during this pivotal time when Oakland’s tech scene is deciding how it is going to define itself; a lot of folks don’t want to be like San Francisco and Silicon Valley, because it plays out that a lot of people of privilege push everyone else out, of home, job and lifestyle.

But that is why the initial article is significant. As a cultural object, this post will be referenced for the defensive comments folks made to defend the party, and shut down Susan’s voice.

I read the comments before the post (I get all the comments in my inbox), so I was looking forward to seeing the hornet’s nest Susan had stirred, but on that point I was disappointed. It wasn’t a sponsored party by an incubator or anything (as pointed out in the editor’s note at the end of the post), but that didn’t diminish the fact that people treated Susan in a particular way. An appropriate response would have been to ignore the post, or explain that it was unfortunate it went down that way and open the channels to discuss how to make better parties. Because that is what humans should be doing, making life better and more meaningful at every opportunity.

Here are my short assessments of the comments attempting to shut Susan down:

  • Andrei – One’s experiences do not diminish those of others. Also, don’t use your family as a badge of diversity, it is tacky.
  • Eliot wrote a post – Susan was writing a narrative to explain the concepts we’ve developed to understand systemic bias in tech. One of them is the idea that something could be so simple, your mother could do it. If Susan feels that is apropos, then it is. I’ve no idea how someone could think the Mom is being insulted. I think the cut off for engaging in Mom-honor is rather young, but maybe it persists for some folks.
  • Adam – Passive-aggressive quips are not positive contributions to a conversation. This reply was essentially troll-speak. Also, mention of “respect”, which throws up a flag that some shared framework of honor is being used, which is obviously not the case.
  • Laura Dambrosio – This was a mean reply, which undermined a potentially interesting counter-point to the story.

Why do I care? I don’t, really. Susan is tough, and can handle the trolls. She is a women working in Oakland tech journalism, which is part of why this even got a reaction. But I wish our discourse were better. I disagree with Susan all the time! But I never have to attack her person or perspective to express that. And she never attacks me, either.

This is also an opening salvo in a battle of ideas that is about to envelop Oakland (how’s that for dramatic?!). If as the folks at the party claim, this wasn’t indicative of a particular set of cultural values, why the venom in the responses? If these folks are only tangential to the tech scene, what can we expect when we engage with the actual folks that will come in and influence the city with money, leverage and privilege? It’s going to happen, we know this. But it doesn’t have to be discussed like this.

For the longest time I’ve tried to fit every WordPress site into my tiered network instance. I don’t want to keep multiple repositories for different configurations, so I’ve endeavoured to pile them all up here (where this blog lives).

Recently I stumbled upon Commons In A Box, and it changed my mind. I really like the plugins it installs, I had no idea that BuddyPress had gotten some of those features in additional plugins, in part because not all of them are in the official repo. CBox itself doesn’t really appeal to me, though I am glad it exists. While I can’t get it installed properly, that it is based in an academic org means that they will support their common use case, and that appeals to me. It is the closest thing I’ve seen to a WordPress “distro”, and I’d like to see more.

I am going to do some more testing, to make sure all my expectations are met, but if it works the way I think it does, I will be rolling out a few new sites in the coming months, based on ideas I’ve had for years now. This is exciting stuff, and I will documenting it heavily (one of my ideas is to finally get a site up for socially documenting the webcraft I do). Fun! ^_^

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.