To my astonishment, I've actually finished my first pass of converting the entire back end code base of one post wonder to modern async/await syntax. What does this mean for you? Absolutely nothing, except that it will be easier to maintain in the future, and I will hopefully be better able to get others to consider assisting in that task.

I'm making other changes as I go along that aim toward maintainability, and just making it hard to write bugs in the first place.

I reached a point where all I'm doing is testing and debugging, testing and debugging, until it actually works again, and I can think about pushing it as the new current release.

After that, it will be time to think about refactoring the front end code. Refactoring is a fancy word for rewriting, or at least restructuring. All I have to do is choose a front end framework so the code will be more maintainable for other contributors, easier for everyone to understand. All I have to do is choose a framework. Like, insert a list of at least 1000 possible choices. Of course, there are just a few well-known ones. If I go with React, people will know that word 10 years from now when they try to contribute to my code. This does not necessarily mean that what is called React in 10 years will look anything like it, but they'll know the word.

Seriously, I can see that I write software with very long release cycles. This makes me an excellent candidate to maintain the software stack for the interstellar multigenerational probe. Just slow me down and run me as a low priority process.

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Slow me down to Priority Bitty and I'll dream away just like Walter Mitty. Oh, won't you please make me code.
It’s sort of like cleaning the refrigerator, isn’t it? You do a ton of work in the name of household sanitation and sanity, then shut the door and walk away, and the house doesn’t look any cleaner. But…
The Martin Fowler and Kent Beck "Refactoring" text is one of the reference books I keep within arm's reach.
That's a job in technology - often the result of kicking ass is a smoothly-running site/app/system ... meaning that if you're really good, no one notices. If you're not really good, your site/app/system crashes and EVERYONE notices.
 

Taking an early upgrade slot rather than waiting for Linode to do scheduled maintenance at 5am.

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Aaaand we're back.

My experience is that everything is zoomier after you take a "free upgrade" (aka "please for the love of god let us put you on a non-ancient host server") from Linode, not that we were experiencing any real slowness before.

Linode's been a pretty great host all along. I moved my smaller projects at work to AWS Amazon Lightsail because of Linode's very occasional outages; Lightsail is Amazon's Linode / Digital Ocean clone, so moving to Lightsail allowed us to say to customers "you're hosted with AWS" while doing a more Linode-like amount of work. They also took care to set the pricing to be competitive. But I do like Linode and now that they are nestled within Akamai I see no reason not to expect them to continue to be a reliable choice for many years.
 

I'm back to work updating OnePo's codebase to modern standards on the server side. Specifically async/await as opposed to callbacks. it's BOOOOO-RINNNNG. But I have "only" one file left. Of course, it's the one where most of the code is.

So after that I should refactor that file as well. Also BOOOOO-RINNNG, and yet somehow satisfying. Then maybe crank up eslint to call me on my shit. Poor man's typescript. Then maybe typescript?

Then rethink the frontend code. Using [ugh I will not even think about choosing a framework today].

Of course OnePo is still a tiny, tiny place. As in "I've never bothered to index the database collections for performance" tiny.  I may need to dial up the disk space just a tad soon though.

"But Tom, aren't you gearing up to welcome former Twitter residents?" No, not really, although the six people who will actually leave in this, the most recent of many outrages are warmly welcome.

Moderation of a successful public social media site is a huge, unsolved problem. As others continously have pointed out, the real challenge for something like Twitter is moderation, not engineering. Yes, it's bad that Musk's plan is basically to fire the moderators.

But I'm in no position to improve on that. There's no moderation in practice on OnePo at the moment, although I'm pledged to supply some in the event of certain types of abuse.

What we have instead is an invitation-only model and a predilection toward thoughtfully locked posts, which reduces (though it absolutely does not eliminate) the likelihood that someone you're connected to needs moderating... at least from your perspective. So far this seems to work OK for our needs.

But, a system like that cannot function as a public square. If we indulge my ego in imagining OnePo writ large, we wind up with a worse echo chamber than Twitter, because it's so difficult to discover new people and the general habit is to limit audiences for things.

Also, OnePo is just a whole 'nother idiom. The intersection of OnePo and Twitter is a ridiculous idea. That would be... uh... BeReal, actually. BeReal is pretty fun. But it does one tiny job.

Actually I kinda like the idea of doing one tiny job. OnePo's one tiny job is allowing friends to know and support each other better. That's fine for what it is, which is a lot.

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"modern standards on the server side" sounds like lyrics to a Joe Jackson song.
And with our modern standards on the server side
Get into a car and drive

Checks out.
Haha, I can hear it in his voice.
a feature that I think may bring more people would be something tumble like where you can search posts by date or "random post."

There are a lot of times I've needed to check something that happened, say, more than six months ago, and I've thought, Oh, I should check OnePo and- Nope. But I also understand that I can search by tags and I owe it to myself to tag more of my own posts.
Search would be nice I agree. I don’t know if it would lead to growth because you have to be able to see stuff in the first place… which means public posts.

Also the existing users have invited everyone they want to invite, and there’s no other on ramp right now.

Hmm.

Maybe a communities feature, he said, continuing to reinvent livejournal.

Maybe a signup that more clearly paves the road to bring your community with you.
typescript just copies all I/O to a file, right? :)
Knew you were listening.
Any recommendations for good tutorials on properly implementing async/await? Asking for a bearded friend trying to get up to speed on contemporary JavaScript.
Rob 10/29
Did you want to push this site? I have considered posting content here and posting a link to it on facebook.
 

Midjourney created this image, given the prompt "white cat named Spike in the style of Marvel." If you've seen my cat, and if you haven't you must be new here, this is pretty amazing. I picked my favorite of the four initial images and upscaled it. I didn't do any further refinement.

Not a real photograph. Dall-E created this image, given the prompt "a big white cat named Spike with stripes like a raccoon and spots like a cow photorealistic."

My privacy-minded partner thought at first this was a photo of our cat.

So Dall-E is just better, right? It depends. The above was Dall-E's best effort on the same Marvel Spike genre prompt Midjourney nailed so well. I attempted to refine this with the words "Marvel cinematic universe" and so on, but it didn't get any closer to the concept.

Midjourney created these images from the prompt "Midjourney's mother." I didn't pick a winner or do any further refinement.

It is difficult not to read into this. But is it just telling me what I want to hear? And if it is, so what?


Midjourney created this image from the prompt "the true purpose of Midjourney." Three of these can be understood simply as riffing on the word "journey." The one at upper right is perhaps just riffing on images frequently associated with the words "true purpose." So as lovely as they are, they don't make me go "hmm" as much as the previous set.

"Dall-E's mother photorealistic" yielded this image, and other images of animal mothers. One was a chimpanzee. If they were all chimpanzees, it could be considered a little cheeky. But emphasizing one chimpanzee out of four images would just be cherry-picking on my part.

Dall-E generated these images for the prompt "the true purpose of Dall-E." There's a theme, at least for three of them, but if there's a message here this monkey isn't clever enough to figure it out.

A Google employee who claims their text-generating AI is a sentient being has been fired. On the whole, I tend to agree with those who say that particular AI (not Dall-E or Midjourney) is probably not a sentient being. And yet, I also agree with those who have serious questions about our ability to judge that. This will be more of an issue as the line gets fuzzier. And it's getting fuzzy pretty fast.

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Given the state of the art in answering "Convince me that you're sapient" combined with deepfake full-motion video, are we far off from requiring shared secrets to defend against machines that can answer "Convince me that you're Thomas B. Boutell"? Truly realistic androids are probably a bit further out, but do we need to exchange secrets before that sneaks up on us? And when we do establish these secrets, how far away from civilization do we need to be to avoid eavesdropping by phones or other gadgets?
If you ever see me drinking a Miller Lite, you know I’ve been kidnapped or it’s a robot.
“DESTROY ROBOT” “But I just poured this whole can into this bowl to make pizza dough, see, I just like to drink the last s-“ *SQUINCH*
Thomas Boutell 8/21edited
If you ever see me pouring a Miller high Life into a champagne glass, you can be pretty sure that it *is* me.
Yeah, my belly can’t tolerate beer. Good for other people, not for me.
Have you read or listened to Wanderers, by Chuck Wendig, yet?
I have a friend putting haikus into midjourney. With quite lovely results.

I'm pretty sure a subscription to mid journey is in my near future. Just because I like it, can't think of any reason I need it.
My mind is thoroughly blown. I think someone fed this machine a TON of Dave Palumbo, Blade Runner, Edward Hopper, and the lady who paints the kids with big eyes.
Where’s PFC Foster?
I found this to be a very insightful exploration of the Dall-E “mind”: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/a-guide-to-asking-robots-to-design
Waider 8/8
I played with Midjourney for much longer than I should have last night and blew out my free trial.
I noticed that it tends to create dark-haired, dark-eyed women with wide foreheads and cheekbones and narrow chins.

One user kept putting in different search terms to try and get pr0n, like "asian girl bikini big balloons" and getting, literally, an Asian girl in a bikini holding a bunch of balloons. It was kind of hilarious.
Mr. Blue Sky, illustrated by AI:
https://youtu.be/nyD6g47DHQk
Wow.
It was getting pretty ominous there toward the end. Very cool
Illustrated by a grim and vaguely threatening AI. Also I assume that it's "illustrated by having MidJourney create a half-dozen images and our trained team of evolved monkeys picking the one that fits best in their opinion"
Waider 8/23
I mean, strictly speaking the curation angle plus the fact that people post these pictures publicly where they will possibly be incorporated into future revisions of this sort of tech means that anyone curating the images is now part of the network generating them...
Waider 8/23
 

This was inspired by my own need to know about new chargers that pop up, primarily on the route to my mom's house. When you drive an EV, PlugShare is absolutely essential for checking out chargers to make sure they are legit and have no recent problems, but I think there's room for an independent newsletter that lets you know when new chargers pop up on your path.

Also: how the hell did I get this domain name? Thanks to my privacy-minded partner for thinking of it.

Only of use in the US, sadly, since I'm dependent on Department of Energy data.

(Yes, I need to work on my sharing pic game. A picture of the same text that's in the description... ouch.)


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You just keep being an excellent human sir. :)
This is BRILLIANT. This is BRILLIANT. This is BRILLIANT.
This is an excellent idea.

And seriously. An appropriate 5-letter .com? I don't even want to know how much you spent on that.
That's the thing! I didn't! It was available!
 

Some small OnePo improvements and fixes:

  • Making links to other pages the traditional way, via the "link" icon and the dialog box, works again on the iPhone.
  • You can also make links by just pasting a link to any page straight into your post, without clicking the link button. When you do that, a nice automatic preview and link appears. We've had this for ages, but there was a dumb bug that broke it for most cases, except YouTube. All fixed. Here's a nice example (and a cool game):

You'll note I didn't have to create any content for that, I just pasted the address of the page straight into this post. This is based on the "open graph" tags that websites already provide for the benefit of Facebook sharing.

  • Speaking of the automatic link feature: pasting a URL like that in the middle of your text once again splits the text into two sections, with the link preview in the middle.

As I mentioned, you can still make links the old-fashioned way too.

(At this point I don't care that I'll never be able to buy the domain onepo dot com. I'm still going to call it that, because how can you not?)

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Very nice work sir! Seems like an elegant solution, and makes things both clean AND pretty.
Also, I’m going to have to check out that game.
Thank you!
Many thanks, dear host!
Stinker! I haven’t broken 101.
 

Boo: I have paxlovid rebound. I am “screamingly positive” for COVID, much like in this article. It happens.

Yay: the rebound symptoms are mild, as promised. Think “severe allergies.” No one has yet reported serious symptoms during the rebound, and more importantly paxlovid reduces hospitalizations by 90% during the initial course of COVID.

I have to stay isolated for another five days and retest. I’ll live! (Literally)

If you don’t have any risk factors they say you probably don’t need it. I took it because of my asthma and history of difficult flu. That may well have been a super-great decision. I don’t have a control Tom. 🤪

🌠 for anyone who finds themselves facing the “paxlovid or not?” question.


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I wonder how many times one can rebound? Let’s hope you don’t have to find out.
The isolation/quarantine is no fun. Maybe an opportunity to catch up on books and movies though.
A few more days, I’ll live.
 

My favorite bit about this story is that the light from this star began its journey 13 billion years ago, but the star is now 28 billion miles away, because the universe kept expanding and we kept on moving apart from one another during those 13 billion years.

Only that's not right, because the star died aeons ago. Stars like our sun live 10 billion years; huge stars like this one are too fast to live, too young to die; they wink out in 10 million years.

So it's more accurate to say the former location of the star is now 28 billion light years away. And no longer part of the "observable universe," because light from where that star is today will never reach us. 28 billion light years = 8584 megaparsecs (yes, I asked google). A galaxy 4,300 megaparsecs away from us is receding from us at the speed of light. Our relative velocity is therefore close to twice the speed of light, which is possible because it's not the velocity of either object relative to a point that isn't moving. And that means light from there will never reach us again.

[Waves goodbye, realizes it's a bit late for that]

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I thought you were referencing a Decemberists song in your title but it’s not. Maybe this story should be.
 

Hey gang, sat down to write a post today and pictures were busted; sorry about that. Post tomorrow, got us a fix for uploading pictures today. Enjoy.

Work is currently underway on support for adding alternative text to any image, whether in a post or in a comment. For comments this involves a bit of a design overhaul, so it may be a Minute.

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9/13 '21 3 Comments
Alt -text is a feature worth the wait. I like to hide secret messages in the alt-text of images at work.
Lindsay Harris Friel 9/13 '21edited
Yay!!!
You Da Best
Anne Mollo 9/13 '21
 

Hi gang,

I saw a couple of friends coping in a DIY way with a possible bug today (tough to say at this point), and it prompted some thoughts about how little attention I've given the platform in a long time. My last push to the server was... cough... two and a half years ago.

In a way this is not such a bad thing. Hey, it works!

But there's a lot that could be improved, and long-running bugs that haven't received attention (notifications for your own replies, anyone?), and believe it or not I'm still interested in the question of whether I did everything I could to make it easy for folks to onboard and, yes, grow the site.

But of course there's very little time.

Meanwhile... recently in another context I was facing pleas to do more in a space that's outside of my more essential responsibilities from day to day. I am very well supported at work. But as in any workplace there are gotta-haves, wanna-haves and really-oughta-haves and it can be tough to juggle them.

So I struggled to organize this really-ought-have stuff as a Project. But a Project implies a Budget and Time and there is no budget or pre-scheduled time for that particular thing right now (darn those pesky gotta-haves). That meant everything I was writing felt like a recipe for stress.

I felt stuck, and anxious.

Then I noticed a kanban board feature in our internal wiki and deliberately created an itty-bitty kanban board to track progress in that particular arena.

When I was asked if I wanted to turn it into a Project instead... I said "nope!" Because the medium is the message. Project = Milestones. Schedule. Release Dates. Time Pressure. All of which are appropriate when resources are available, and needlessly stressful when they are not.

But a kanban board says "hey... this is the art of the possible! Nibble at it. Bash at it. Occasionally really go at it. You'll get there."

My kanban board at work turned out very well and I'm still using it to nibble away at the oughta-have thing I can only work on occasionally.

So in the same spirit, I plan to set up a kanban board for One Post Wonder.

And today, in that kanban spirit, I did three itty bitty things to move the ball forward:

1. The "submit a bug" button just sends me a damn email. It used to post an issue to my github project, which was too clever by half. I didn't get any notifications, I didn't pay attention and you probably felt neglected. I'm sorry about that. This should be better.

2. I fixed an issue that caused gmail to reject some emails from One Post Wonder. There are services you can pay to deliver your emails reliably. Cost aside, I feel it's important that we try to maintain independence in this area. Even though it's a pain in the ass and an ever-moving target.

3. I changed the welcome message you see when you sign up from "each day, post a carefully curated sonnet concerning the state of world affairs or you will be punished with lasers" (*) to this:

"It doesn't matter if it's a cat picture, a duck joke or a column worthy of Alexandra Petri."

I think this is way more welcoming, and I hope it will encourage people to feel like it's OK to just chill here. Lord knows I do. Shitpost away, everyone. You just can't do it more than once a day.

(*) It didn't really say that. It was far more well-intentioned but still kinda intimidating.

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8/28 '21 12 Comments
I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record.
rone 8/29 '21
I don’t feel tardy.
Thomas Boutell 8/29 '21
Tom, I'm very grateful for all the work and thought you've put in to creating friendly online spaces over the years. You have such a knack for it, and you do us all a great kindness. Thank you.

Perhaps you could share some of the "work" of it with some of us who code, if you and they are willing? Maybe you've all known each other long enough that it's time to grow into more of a cooperative model? I daresay you needn't shoulder this alone.
Anne Mollo 8/28 '21
I should mention that Sean coded quite a bit for a while in addition to doing a beautiful job on the design. I am only now finally thinking a refresh might be in order. It still looks great.
Thomas Boutell 8/29 '21
Tom did canvas for contributors and, mea culpa, I signed up and then kinda got bogged down in even trying to get my development environment off the ground - OPW uses a few things I'm not au fait with and had to read up on. As a result I've had the code sitting on my laptop for several <embarrassed small print>years</embarrassed small print> without me doing any more than poking ineffectually at it.
Waider 8/29 '21edited
No big, man. I could see that readability was an issue with that old school callback library, and I started a conversion to async/await style which is much more readable and maintainable, but did not finish. I should try that again in a more incremental way.
Thomas Boutell 8/29 '21
I am thinking about moving it to Amazon Lambda and such, which would be good for scalability and good for my skill set.
Thomas Boutell 8/29 '21
Ah, Amazon Lambda, or as they called it in the old days, "buying CPU time on the mainframe."
rone 8/30 '21
Heh. It’s just that I keep solving things with old school scripting on servers I fail to treat as cattle. Need a shakeup.
Thomas Boutell 8/30 '21
tsk, don't diss my employer's cunning dressing up of old tech as new. Now, can I interest you in a punchcard?
Waider 8/30 '21
I WRITED SOME CODE. I HOPE YOU LIKE IT.

LOVE
WAIDER
Waider 9/2 '21
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/109276/kanban-drivers-edition is a game about optimizing your automotive assembly line, and I'd heard about it but never bothered learning what "kanban" meant.
Brian Rapp 8/28 '21