The serendipity of it all

After setting aside lunchtime to write a blog post, I’ve spent the last half an hour doing anything and everything except write a blog post. This is pretty typical behaviour. I’m amazed the distraction only went on for half an hour to be honest – in recent months my hands haven’t filled the keyboard with thoughts much before 1am.

Urgh. Where to start?

Life just seems to be such a trudge at the moment. Each day starts with vague thoughts of “what crap’s going to happen today?”. I’ve started writing down even the most mundane tasks in my old bullet journal as part of the “working day” – purely because ticking something off feels like I’ve achieved something. Achieved anything, really.

I’ve stepped sideways from much of the “social internet” in recent months. I still look in now and again – but quickly grow tired of the typically toxic advertorial highlight reel that many post. Yes, I get it – you like eating out – do you really think that’s what people want to know about though? Or is it just me that finds a continual torrent of “look where we are”, “look what we bought”, or “look how fantastic our perfect life is” gets really, really tiring.

I often remind myself that the internet is not everybody. I’m also fully aware of my paradoxical relationship with it – given I am posting these forgettable thoughts into the torrents of idiocy.

It comes back to the Norah Ephron quote, doesn’t it – this blogging escapade – that a blog post doesn’t have to say anything. Hello. I’m here. And by the way. On the other hand. Never the less. Did you see?

She called blogging an exhale. I’ve always liked that thought. An exhale that somebody, somewhere might take notice of. Before they know it they’re reading your most recent few posts, reaching out, and a friendship happens. Then months on you know more about each other than most friends or family – and yet you’ve never met.

I think perhaps that’s what I like most about the internet – about blogging – is the serendipity of it all. You never know when you fire up the computer what words you might share, what words you might read, who you might cross paths with, or how important they might become in your life.


The one where Tumblr deactivated my account

For the last year or so I’ve been following the idea that it’s better to take your writing to potential readers, rather than try to bring them to your writing. With that in mind, I created mirrors of my personal blog at WordPress and Tumblr and cross posted entries into them.

I thought better of it a few days ago – and put up a message on both platforms that I was taking a step back for a while. I had been struggling with writing anyway, so it seemed like the right thing to do.

This morning I pulled the dust sheets back off both WordPress and Tumblr, and brought them both up to date – back-filling the last few days private posts.

And then suddenly the Tumblr blog wasn’t there any more. Or rather, I was suddenly logged out, and couldn’t log back in. After a little digging, I discovered the message “this blog has been terminated – contact support for further information”. I of course contacted support, but I don’t hold out much hope. Terminations tend to be very final.

I had been a member of Tumblr on-and-off since 2007. While not the place it once was, I had never quite summoned the courage to remove myself entirely – I had too many friends there. Too many memories. Back in the day – when David Karp was in charge – Tumblr had made a real difference to the world-wide-web community. It was always a bit scrappy, and a bit broken, but it was somehow better than the sum of it’s parts.

Of course I’ve lost the list of people that I used to follow. They vanished with the account. I’m going to miss them enormously. Strangers for the most part – but strangers sharing moments of their lives – much as I had. I *knew* so many of them – or at least felt like I did. And now they are gone.

I’m resisting the temptation to rail against walled gardens once again – and this time it would be valid. It will not surprise you to learn that I’ve spent the hours since it happened backing up every piece of writing I have shared. Having copies of everything you’ve posted since 2003 doesn’t sound quite so stupid when a place they were published suddenly vanishes, does it.

My concern now is that WordPress will go the same way. I have been publishing writing to WordPress for even longer – since the mid 2000s. WordPress and Tumblr are both owned by Automattic. The robot that undoubtedly pulled the rug from my Tumblr account could do the same to WordPress at any moment – and there will be no way of finding out why.

Substack has become a lifeboat of sorts. The list of email subscribers has become an escape route from the walled gardens that choose who, what, when, and where we can post excerpts of our lives.

I suppose if anything, this morning has re-affirmed that I am doing the right thing – trying to find a way outside of the walled gardens.

Back up your writing, folks. You never know what tomorrow may bring.


Walled Gardens and Bullet Journals

A message from a friend struck home today – encouraging me to stop trying so damn hard. To stop trying to spin so many plates all the time. To stop trying to be everywhere, doing everything, all the time. She was right of course – she invariably is. A whispered voice of reason, arriving at just the right time.

I guess this means retreating somewhat from the walled gardens of the internet, and just “being” for a while. Slowing down. Gathering my thoughts. Disconnecting.

Which leads me rather neatly on to the little paper book on the desk behind me. The bullet journal that I stopped using a couple of months ago – and which I started back-filling to bring it back up-to-date earlier today.

I’ve been playing with all manner of solutions that don’t really work over the last few months – clever software, apps, websites, and what-have-you – that promise a “second brain”. I suppose – if I’m honest with myself – I always knew the paper notebook was better. I wanted the clever doo-dads to be better than they are.

I think perhaps the failing of all the oh-so-very-clever productivity apps is that at some point you have to start using them – not just dick about with them – and that’s when they turn into work instead of fun.

Maybe it’s a character trait thing as well. Or a character failing?


For the next little while – maybe for the foreseeable future – I’m going to stop the cross-posting madness, and concentrate a little bit more on me. If you’re subscribed over at substack, or already able to whisper straight into my brain via Messenger, or Telegram – those are probably the best ways to reach me.

You never know – I might finally start writing that damn novel.


Taking a sanity break

I planned to write a blog post yesterday. I don’t know why I plan anything any more – suffice to say, the blog post didn’t happen.

I’m trying to juggle too many things at the moment. I think perhaps the word to take notice of is “trying”. I shouldn’t try to do as much. Invariably I end up chasing my own tail in pursuit of other people’s expectations – which nobody will ever thank you for.

It’s interesting how we judge ourselves based on the presumed expectations of others, isn’t it.

I worked from a café this morning – the one where my eldest daughter worked, and where my middle daughter now works. She threw in her job at the pub – fed up with being taken advantage of by everybody around her, and walked straight into the new job.

It took two attempts to leave for the café. The first attempt took three times longer than I thought, on account of the growing OCD within me that cannot leave the house in a ramshackle state. Then after walking perhaps 100 yards towards the cafe, I realised I had forgotten my wallet. Yes, my phone can do payments – but it’s sod’s law that the day I don’t have my wallet, my phone will stop cooperating. I’m pretty sure they’re designed that way.

I got there in the end.

You don’t realise how loud the ambient noise is in a café until you try to join a conference call. I need to get some noise cancelling headphones. Also – best not turn your laptop around to show the café to everyone on the call – everybody in the café then looks at the faces peering from your laptop, wondering what the hell you’re doing. You don’t need to know why I know that – it’s not important.

Given the effort required in transporting myself to somewhere else for a few hours, I’m not entirely sure it’s worth it unless meeting up with somebody. All I really achieved was adding more hassle to an already chaotic day.


The afternoon has been… non-stop. I’m stopping for a few minutes to empty these words into the keyboard to maintain some sort of sanity really. Everything seems to be non-stop at the moment, and yet I know it’s really not. A lot of the non-stop stuff is of my own doing. My own idiocy. My own attempts to be everybody, do everything, and be everywhere. I’m not good at it.

I need to slow down, and reach out to a few friends now and again.

I just need to get these bits and pieces done first though…


The end of Twitter ?

You might think a social network acquired by an egomaniac billionaire that has become unsustainable after advertisers collectively ditched it would be playing nicely with others in the hope of repairing its utterly destroyed reputation.

You would be wrong.

Elon has now banned most journalists writing for major platforms that have written anything critical of his behaviour. He has also banned Ukrainian journalists of note reporting from inside Ukraine about Russian military crimes and misdemeanours.

Overnight, the administration team at Twitter classified all external links to Mastodon as malware.

If you’ve not heard of it, Mastodon is a viable community-led alternative to Twitter with no advertising, no algorithmic timeline, and a growing network of servers all over the world supporting communities, interests, groups and individuals. It champions free speech and transparency. Perhaps crucially Mastodon servers are funded by the community, for the community.

The emergence of Twitter, its evolution, and now its destruction have been interesting to witness. When the founders built it back in 2006, they didn’t set out to become “the world’s town square”, but that’s what it became.

Of course in the real world you don’t get kicked out of the town square for saying the wrong thing about the wrong person. You also don’t get your mouth taped up if you think about saying something about a given subject – or talking about another town nearby.

Perhaps as time goes by the global community will realise how well the original founders of Twitter did. With no guidebook, and no past experience they crafted a global communication platform where for the most part people were equal. In the early days it fell over. A lot. In recent years it’s been the source of breaking news all over the world – war, unrest, exploitation, racism, injustice – spread around the globe in minutes.

That’s all coming to an end – for Twitter.

An exodus has been happening. A huge variety of interesting, introspective, thoughtful communicators are re-surfacing on Mastodon – people from all walks of life, leaving the mayhem behind and starting anew.

Of course it’s not all plain sailing. Those helping to run Mastodon servers face the same problems Twitter faced a decade ago. While most people think “what can I do for others”, there will always be a minority that think “what can everybody do for me”. Dealing with a vocal, reactive, toxic minority has been one of the most intractable problems for the internet from the beginning.

Perhaps the end of Twitter serves as a “teachable moment”. A moment where we are reminded that once people have tasted freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of information, they will react badly to any potential curbs to those freedoms.

The genie is out of the bottle.


Descending into the Twitterverse

This morning I have been dipping a toe into the Twitterverse. It’s a strange word, isn’t it – “Twitterverse”. The Twitter Universe. It really is a universe of sorts though – populated with subject driven worlds, related interests, and with no barriers between them. It’s loud, it’s cacophonous, it’s fast moving, and it somehow seems to embody Norah Ephron’s blogging mantra – that whatever you’re saying is true for about as long as you’re saying it.

Here’s the thing about “dipping a toe” – before long I know I’ll think “oh sod it”, hold my breath, and jump in – then find myself out of my depth, panic a bit, before realising that everything is fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine. Everybody is fine. Deep breaths.

Except everybody isn’t fine – certainly not in the twitterverse. Some people are really very angry indeed, and don’t need much of an opportunity to tell whoever will listen exactly why they are angry. Thankfully there is a “block” button that switches them off mid-rant, never to be seen again.

I wish a block button existed in the real world.

I’ve been reading the tweets posted by those in the #writingcommunity – and it’s been a revelation of sorts. While sitting on my own, tapping away on a keyboard in the dead of night, I often forget there’s an entire world out there of others doing exactly the same. It’s nice to have a window you can open to the passing torrent of happiness, sadness, anxiety, hope, laughter, and every other emotion – to find that the world is enormous, and that the invisible surrounding crowd face the same struggles, doubts, and challenges.


Enough pontification for the moment. I have an important mission to complete today – fussing, and feeding a good friend’s dog while they are out for the day. My family always had dogs when I was young – I kind of miss it. We have cats, but they’re not the same. The old saying about dogs having owners, and cats having staff is more accurate than most will admit.



Throughout the last 48 hours I have been descending ever further into the federated internet rabbit hole. While trying to wrap my head around it all, the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge came to mind.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

from Kubla Khan, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

When I first encountered the “fediverse”, I wondered if people might not prove it’s undoing. While it’s wonderful to imagine a diverse network of communities spread across the internet, it’s probable that people will turn variety into difference – and communities into factions.

In my experience, people tend to ruin everything.

Just as a community might form to foster and protect a vulnerable minority, another community might form to pollute surrounding communities with hate.

It’s already happening. Groups are emerging to cater for every undesirable predilection you might imagine – from extremism, to racism, sexism, bigotry, and so on.

Thankfully the developers of the federated internet foresaw such obvious events, and built in the ability to block entire communities – and to share information with the wider network. A vaccine of sorts to a social virus – depriving tolls of the air needed to spread their hate.

It strikes me that gatekeepers of federated internet communities are essentially benevolent dictators. There’s only one problem with that – when did you ever see a dictator remain benevolent?

It’s going to be interesting – watching the federated internet build itself – watching it twist, contort, and evolve. A tipping point appears to have been reached in recent days – a trickle of newcomers has become a flood.

I wonder what will happen when the corporate and commercial worlds inevitably attempt to exploit the new networks. Any attempt to pollute the firehose with advertising or marketing is not going to go well for them – I can almost hear their complaints about being blocked from huge swathes of the internet landscape already.



Something rather interesting happened last night. Something I want to write about so I might reminisce in the future about “the day Elon Musk bought Twitter”.

I’m not quite sure why it happened, but a lot of people left Twitter last night – or rather, they cleared their exit route. I’m not entirely sure why so many people are so polarised by Elon Musk, but their apparently imminent exodus seems to have brought the potential future of the social internet into focus.

For many, the fediverse arrived last night. Of course it was already here, but it took a billionaire re-factoring the internet landscape to wake a lot of people up.

Somebody asked me yesterday what the “Federated Internet” means – wondering if it meant some kind of federal control. No. Not at all. Quite the opposite in fact.

If you look up “federation” in the dictionary, it describes a whole being made up of many parts (think countries in the world). Each part operates autonomously, and can communicate freely with the others. You might think of the world wide web as a federation – each website is autonomous, but connects to the wider world by agreeing on common communication protocols. Email works the same way.

Several years ago open source developers started looking at the tent-pole social internet platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and wondered if they might improve upon them. Given that the direction of an internet where intentionally incompatible social platforms can be steered by commercial decisions, the idea of a federated social internet gained traction.

Mastodon is one of the first federated social internet platforms to gain attention – a twitter-like collective of independent yet connected communities – run by the people, for the people, with no central ownership or control.

It’s perhaps wrong to talk about Mastodon as a thing. It’s not the thing – as the famous saying goes – “it’s the thing that takes us to the thing” – to the communities – to the people.

This video explains it far better than I can:

I’ll stop lecturing now.

After tinkering with Mastodon for the last several years, I registered with one of the servers last night, and began reading, following, and watching a platform that had been a quiet backwater of the internet explode into life.

It’s been fun. It continues to be fun. The marketers haven’t arrived yet. A new social network has been born, and is filled with wide eyed people stepping through Joe MacMillan’s Holland Tunnel, taking in the city for the first time.