ActivityPub and politics

This “toot” by one of the, if I understand this, (previous or current) consumers of the ActivityPub specification, shares a thought and most importantly a link to a post made by another, presumably, consumer.

In brief, there seem to be a quite some zealotting, passion, discussion, ignorance, considering, etc, about how to best create the spec for ActivityPub. It’s an interesting read, to see an article written by a critic of where ActivityPub as a body have headed for, for at least the last passing year.

If things are, even only roughly, as (I’ll call him) “schub” describes, it sounds like the people who are mainly sailing the ActivityPub ship, needs to take an introspective look at who they’re making it for.

In this day and age of literally multithousands of (mostly bad) APIs around the Internet of memes, I thought we had come to a collective point that APIs and specs are made for the individuals wanting to make a real use of it. The entity providing the spec has the sole responsibility of providing the rules of engagement as a guide and constraint to the implementer. Having a stance saying “you should (need) to talk to other implementers to get things straightened out in terms of interoperability” and the spec doesn’t state a bare minimum of constraints…… Just… Ugh…. I’m not envying anyone trying/wanting/being ordered to implement anything.

3.5 mm jacks are REALLY out of style

I since a month or so have this HP 830 G5 EliteBook. Before this I had a MacBook Pro 13″ 2013.

The way I sometimes utilised the MacBook was to watch video while travelling together with others. And because it’s boring to watch alone I used this handy dandy 3.5 mm audio splitter to allow for the others to listen in on the same thing. Worked perfectly fine, if you can see through the occasional bickering about what volume level was appropriate.

Now, back to the EliteBook.

If we compare this evidence photo to the one at the start of this post, you’ll notice something a bit odd. The first one has my trusted Apple in ear headset plugged in. The other, the handy dandy audio splitter.

But. What’s that…? The headset seem to be snuggly huggling the computer case. But the splitter doesn’t seem to fit the same way, now does it?

And you’re right. The audio splitter doesn’t fit the same way. And believe you me, I have done a lot to see if I could force convince the thing to fit properly. It absolutely refuses. I’m denied of mine and my others group entertainment sessions.

So…. Wtf?

I’ve heard grim tales of 3.5 mm jacks being removed from phones. But I’ve never heard of a 3.5 mm jack refusing to have it plugged by a 3.5 mm equivalent plug!

How am I supposed to be able to acquire a splitter that fits to this monstrosity when there’s literally no way to search for a product based on “a 3.5 mm audio splitter that fits in a 3.5 mm jack”!?

Sigh

Onwards!!!

Why do I have to repeat myself…?

The other day I was on a quest to connect a blog to Twitter. The idea is simple; Make a blog post, and have it automatically tweeted.

Now, doing this isn’t all that easy. WordPress has a few plugins to choose from, and you should at least choose one that make use of an API, to avoid providing actual Twitter account credentials such as usernames and passwords (because The Internet is a foul and bad place who lives for stealing your credentials).

In order to make use of Twitter’s APIs, you need to apply for an application in Twitter’s developer section. Doing this requires you to answer a number of questions, such as:

  • The core use case, intent, or business purpose for your use of the Twitter APIs
  • If you intend to analyze Tweets, Twitter users, or their content, share details about the analyses you plan to conduct and the methods or techniques
  • If your use involves Tweeting, Retweeting, or liking content, share how you will interact with Twitter users or their content
  • If you’ll display Twitter content off of Twitter, explain how and where Tweets and Twitter content will be displayed to users of your product or service, including whether Tweets and Twitter content will be displayed at row level or aggregated

So, being a good Netizen, I answer these questions. Oh, I should mention these questions are available in a form when you apply for an application. In a textarea. On the Twitter’s website. It says that one should answer these questions as thoroughly as possible, with as many details as possible, or the review may take longer. Ok, sure. So I did that.

A couple of hours pass. An email comes in. And in that email it says that Twitter are happy to see my application, but that it needs additional information about my use case. Here are the questions I should answer as thoroughly as possible:

Hmmm…. Those topics look awfully similar to something I’ve already responded to!

I’m just going to leave with this; Why the hell is anyone, ever asking questions up-front as part of a process, when the exact same questions will have to be answered a second time, even if they were already answered???

I’m not disappointed. I’m annoyed, on the brink of pissed off.

NEXT!

MeWe – “public” posts

As a long time Internet and Google+ user I’ve grown accustomed to a certain level of, let’s call it outreach, when it comes to who can access the content I willingly and openly share.

In Google+ I had the choice of creating, or engaging in, public posts. What that means is that they’re searchable and reachable on The Internet, without requiring an account. Kind of like Twitter posts, if you will.

MeWe doesn’t currently have this feature or concept of it. There’s work being done that’s going to add the concept, but it’s still not going to embrace it in its entirety; they’re going to make it possible to set the status of a post to public, but it’s public within the walls of MeWe.

And here’s where I’m not gel’ing too well with MeWe. We’re essentially, by design and in purpose, creating content and having it kept within the confines of a service, with no way of sharing it to the world from that service, unless someone wanting to access the content has an account.

Some people will say “Use a blog for that!”, or “At least the data isn’t easily harvested and stolen this way!”, etc. But I don’t want to have to do that. Let me control what I want to put out in public. Let me decide that I want everyone to know that I own a bottle cap collection the size of a tanker because one day they’ll be worth all their weight in cryptocurrency the world isn’t flat!

I am using a blog now, but that’s not so much by choice than the force of hand because I don’t find another community having the tools and service provided that I need and want to use. I guess this is how the internet of communities work now; walled off pretty gardens or freely open not-so-pretty ones and tons of blogs in between.

*sigh*

Next!

MeWe – the first week with Android

MeWe. The, in my opinion, closer G+ alternative in general if choosing between this or Diaspora. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better on all counts, just that it mimics more the G+ I’ve grown accustomed to.

When I first signed up to MeWe I was surprised by the lack of content showing up. Granted, I was in the mobile app and not the website, so things might have been different had I gone through the website.

I actually went and checked again on my phone, just to see if there was anything worth noting that would be different from the website. It just so happened that the UI is so different, that I took the time to take screenshots of at least 80% of the onboarding process to have something to compare to! So, you get even more content to read now (yay…?)

Android onboarding and first impressions

This almost became somewhat of a second unboxing experience for me, because I found the first round being slightly confusing, that I had forgotten half of what it was like.

When you fire up the Android MeWe app for the first time you get to choose between creating an account or logging in. I didn’t take a screenshot of that, because you can easily just install the app and launch it to see what it’s like.

Passing that step by having logged in, you’re greeted with the following screen:

Screenshot of MeWe dialog with thinking hand, the phrase "Here's what to do next" and multiple choices of buttons

You get a few options to guide you on your way to happiness, engagement, videogame death, progressing in the app. The topmost one says “Invite your friends”, but since none of my personal, in real life friends, have any clue as to what MeWe is, and the Internet Of Friends are using direct links to their profiles, I’m going for the second option: “Explore Open Groups”. A thing to point out here; When you choose something out of the list of buttons presented to you, this dialogue is forever gone as far as I can tell. So you need to figure out how to get to the other options by yourself from here on.

Exploring groups

The Explore Open Groups button will get you here:

This is pretty straightforward; browse through the list of groups presented and choose one that you fancy. I chose MeWe Favorites because I was curious about what they curated.

A handful of choices show up, I can’t really tell what the criteria is for getting added to this group, but they’re non-controversial, covering dogs, cats, tech and coffee maker talk.

I went for the Awesome gifs group, because 1) it was at the top, and 2) they’re claiming awesome gifs so there’s gotta be something good in there, right? I got nothing to lose. 🙂

What surprised me was the following screen:

I assumed joining would be a similar experience to following something on G+; click a button, and now you’re getting access to content.

However, you get two questions that you should answer, and while I get that they’re younger in cheek, they’re still strange things to ask, if the answers don’t mean anything. Maybe they’re for preventing spam bots or something, I have no clue.

So I just answered “yes” and “no”, because I couldn’t be bothered thinking up anything witty. I guess that makes me not-awesome, but I couldn’t be bothered.

Now, what happened after I replied to the questions was the following:

I will very much assume this isn’t the fault of Awesome gifs team of Awesome, but instead the MeWe UX team’s. Throwing two models at you on top of eachother is just silly. They could have done a something better to improve this strange behaviour. I didn’t dig into the top most one, because I already knew how to navigate within.

So, I dismiss the top one and have the bottom one challenging me with:

It’s not easy getting into (or rather what I’d prefer instead; just following) a group, is it?

I skipped writing anything, even though I was unsure if it was a requirement. Come to think of it, it’s really vague whether or not any of these require an answer or type-in. But it didn’t seem to mind when I just tapped “Next”.

I’m in! And here’s what it looks like!:

Oooof. Seems as if this group have had their fair share of spam/lewdness/non-solicited matchmaking and other things to have to put up two huge warning signs as their first pinned post! Unfortunately, it certainly doesn’t make for an inviting first look into a group.

So, this was a small intro to what joining a group could look like in MeWe’s current incarnation of the Android app.

Exploring the Home tab

There are a couple more tabs at the bottom that could be worth a short mention; the Home tab:

This is where your connected friends’ stuff end up. The more you connect with, the busier this tab will be, showing content and post of what they share.

Exploring the Communities tab

Another one is the Communities tab:

Some of you hawk-eyed people may notice that the “Awesome gifs” group is back! That’s because the “Communities” tab contain the groups you’re a part of. It also holds a list of suggestions for other groups you might want to browse through, or join.

Exploring the Chats tab

And lastly, for this post, there’s the Chats tab:

Chats are areas in which either your connections converse with you directly, or it’s connected to a group, which means messages are shared with multiple people in that same group. Not much to it than that; if you’ve used any kind of messaging/chat app before, this isn’t any news to you.

Wrap-up

First off, the experience in general isn’t a disaster. There are bits and bobs that could do with a bit more work, but it’s not difficult navigation. But it is different compared to Google+. That may not come as a surprise because it isn’t self-proclaimed to be a Google+ competitor or replacement. But it is very much talked about as a replacement from Google+ refugees, and as such there’s got to be something with this that make it so similar.

I agree that there’s an aura of Google+ in MeWe; there are groupings and the app isn’t very different from Google+ in terms of navigation. But there aren’t that many more similarities, and the app is super obnoxious (mostly due to difficult notification settings) in comparison. Here’s a list of procons that I’ve experienced having used MeWe for a week or two:

++

  • There is an app
  • The app feels Google+-familiar
  • Navigating within the app is fairly easy

– –

  • There is no central stream; every tab has its own purpose, which effectively split up the content
  • Notifications and their settings are difficult and confusing to figure out
  • You can’t follow anything; you either connect to another user or join a group
  • You can’t make collections for others to follow; instead you make a group, in which people will have to join to gain access to
  • You can’t preview a group’s content
  • The website and Android app are vastly different in their UX
  • No way to edit posts or comments (this is one of the top most frustrating things)