"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."

Some Assembly Required

08:42 Thursday, 14 November 2013

Nice Marmot is created using Tinderbox by Eastgate Systems.

Tinderbox, "The Tool For Notes," is a Mac application actively developed and maintained for more than a decade by Mark Bernstein of Eastgate Systems.

Groundhog Day, the second iteration of my blogging efforts, was maintained in a series of Tinderbox files for about six years. I relied upon a customized set of templates offered by Eastgate Systems, and thus was able to overcome much of the initial learning curve with Tinderbox. The downside was that as the application evolved, and as my wishes for Groundhog Day became somewhat more sophisticated, I was less able to take advantage of the power of Tinderbox. I lacked the understanding of how the thing was put together.

When Apple ceased its hosting service, I decided for the sake of convenience that I would stop maintaining my own content management system, and use one of the online blogging platforms. I chose Tumblr because it was free, had a fairly nice writing environment, and a varied and interesting community. (I didn't learn about the porn until later.)

Unfortunately, as with all "free" efforts, the provider has to find a way to make money somehow. So then it becomes an advertising platform, competing with all the myriad other advertising platforms out there. In order to differentiate themselves and compete with the other platforms, each one has to rely on some unique aspect of their service, usually beloved by users, and whore it out to advertisers. Google's the best at it, and creepiest, though Facebook has closed the gap and made it a real horse race. That's where Tumblr is going. It's not pretty.

Add to that the fact that your writing, photographs, links, all reside within their content management system. It's a roach motel, it goes in, but you can't get it back out. I was able to get most of my content from Facebook, and all of it from Instagram, but nothing from Tumblr.

Before Snowden, the creepiness factor of Google, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, and even Tumblr, was giving me serious reservations about participating on those platforms. Even before the Snowden revelations, I had written many times in Tumblr that if Google didn't exist, the NSA would have to invent it.

I decided to get out.

Still wanting to have a voice, I chose to buy a domain name (It's really more of lease, bastards.), rent some server space, and have my own web site. I learned many new, and largely useless outside of this narrow application, things. It was a bit challenging, but not too hard. Which is to say, you could do it too.

I looked at a number of Mac desktop applications for creating web sites. I started with iWeb because I was somewhat familiar with it from back during the homepage.mac.com days. I had my dad writing a blog using it. (Sailor Jack's still kickin'. Though not as much or as hard as he used to.) I also looked at Sandvox, and a similar app though the name escapes me just now, and it seems I've deleted it from my hard drive.

In any event, they all had a kind of busy feel to them. Their output (at least in terms of the file structure uploaded to the server) resembled something the cat threw up. I wanted something clean and efficient, much like I had when I used Tinderbox to create Groundhog Day.

It seemed there was nothing for it but to roll up my sleeves and dig into Tinderbox again. I read everything I could find on the web. I have Mark Bernstein's book, The Tinderbox Way. And then I just started trying things. Trial and error. The October archive is nothing but a series of test posts, and you would be surprised what it took just to get there.

Now I'm here. I can write what I want, it all stays on my HD, and I have a pretty good idea what's going on, both on my HD and on my little bit of server space. I can slice and dice the posts pretty much any way I want. There's a great deal more that I want to do that I haven't figured out yet, but I'll get there.

No promises, but I'll try to document, either here or likely elsewhere, some of the things I've learned about Tinderbox. There are a lot of useful resources on the web, but I don't think anyone has written a very clear account of how to get up and running online with Tinderbox.

Strictly as an outliner, or a "notes processor," on your desktop, you can be productive in very little time. To be proficient or skillful would require much more effort, but you can be productive in very short order on the desktop alone. But add html export to that, and the level of complexity spikes. Very powerful, but very tricky until you begin to figure it out.

I'm not quite there yet, but I'm far enough along to do this. And for now, this is almost enough. I'll get better, and Nice Marmot will too.

So consider this an endorsement of Tinderbox. It's hard, but it's worth the effort.

Welcome to Nice Marmot

14:12 Wednesday, 13 November 2013

My name is Dave Rogers, Nice Marmot is my blog. It's my reaction to what I perceive is an unhealthy, unwelcome and entirely too ubiquitous and intrusive expansion of "social media" into the internet and our daily lives.

Human beings are social creatures. Many successful and wonderful businesses have been created supporting and exploiting that characteristic. There's nothing inherently wrong with exploiting our social nature; but it begins to feel wrong when that exploitation is being powered by staggeringly enormous computational resources, and access to truly unprecedented amounts of information about our personal lives.

An idealistic view of this situation is that all that power will be used make our lives better.

I'm not an idealist. Call me a cynic if you will, but I don't think the good that will come from all this will outweigh the bad.

I can't stop it, but I can choose to limit my participation in it.

So I've deleted my traditional social media accounts with the exception, for the time being, of Twitter. Twitter hasn't gotten "creepy" yet. But they're working very hard on how to get there.

I also still have an active account on Flickr, though I'm not certain whether that will remain the case.

As a human being, I'm a social creature too. I wish to share my thoughts and interests with my friends, meet new ones, and participate in the online "conversation." But I don't want some corporation peering over my shoulder, reading my address book, noting where I'm at, what I'm doing, what I'm shopping for. I can't prevent all of that, but I can make it harder for them, while not denying myself the rewards of an online presence.

Prior to Apple ending its web hosting offering, homepage.mac.com, I maintained a weblog called Groundhog Day for many years. I first started blogging in December 1999 on a Dave Winer platform called editthispage.com. That blog was called Time's Shadow. After .mac shut down, I confined most of my online efforts to Facebook and Tumblr, where I had a blog called Day of the Groundhog. I deleted that account as well.

So I have a long history of ranting into the void to no discernible effect. I enjoy it. I intend to keep doing it for some time to come. I've recently "retired" from the working life. I'm a retired naval officer, and I have a pension I can live on if I'm careful. I'll never be rich, but I have the luxury of owning my own time. I'll "spend" some of it here.

I hope that readers may find what I offer interesting, useful, funny, thought-provoking or infuriating. Anything but boring. I'll work on it anyway.

If you care to contact me, you can reach me at dave underscore rogers at mac dot com.

Thanks for stopping by.