I’m Percolating…

You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging as often as I used to. I’ve been on holidays from work these past two weeks, and I have been…percolating.

I’ve been feeling exhausted, and sleeping ten to twelve hours at a stretch, without feeling guilty or lazy. There’s been no shortage of things to blog about, but instead of leaping on top of them with a hot take, I have decided to just sit back and…percolate.

Hopefully, I’ll know when I am ready to jump back into things. But I think it’s good sometimes just to pause, take a deep breath, and relax. Recharge my batteries. Distance myself from the fray. Dream. Daydream.

Be back soon!

Editorial: Between Mastodon and Feedbin, I Now Have All the Tools I Need to Avoid Using Twitter While Following People’s Tweets

It’s time for a rethink on how I use Twitter (image source: PC Magazine)

As longtime readers of my blog know full well, I have already severed all ties to Meta hardware and software, even going so far as to vote with my wallet and replace my trusty Oculus Rift PCVR headset at home with a Valve Index. (My final link to Meta was cut in August 2022, when I replaced my work VR headset, a second Oculus Rift, with an HTC Vive Pro 2.) This means that I am not on any of Meta’s social media: no Facebook, no Instagram, no Whatsapp. I shut down my Facebook account a couple of years ago, asking the company to delete all the personal data it had collected on me. I am done.

So, when Elon Musk announced earlier this year that he was going to take over Twitter, I already had some experience in cutting social media platforms out of my life. I responded by setting up an account on Mastodon, which I talk about here, here, and here.

Mastodon is a federated, FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) microblogging app, quite similar to Twitter, but it is decentralized, and not subject to the capricious whims of billionaires! It’s free, but I choose to support it financially through Patreon. If you are curious and you want to kick the tires yourself on Mastodon, start here. You can also watch this two-minute YouTube introduction video:

I unfollowed 90% of the people I was following on Twitter, sending messages to most of them that I was moving to Mastodon, and inviting them to join me. Of course, most didn’t. I get it; change is hard.

So, while I was now posting to my Twitter feed automatically via my blog and via my new Mastodon account, I still found myself having to sign in to Twitter to follow certain people. I grew weary of dealing with Twitter’s algorithmic feed, with its pernicious advertising, and its suggested posts and topics, and its trending hashtags (usually an echo chamber for whatever the latest outrage happens to be). I looked for a solution.

I found it via the recommendation of someone I follow on Mastodon, named Per Axbom. who had posted a link to a blogpost he had written, titled Why I left algorithm-based social media and what happened next. I read about the process Per took to free himself from algorithmically-driven social media and take control over his own newsfeed, and one of the tools he talked about was Feedbin.

Feedbin is a newsreader with a website and associated mobile apps (to set up an account costs US$5 per month or US$50 per year), but it’s more than just that! In addition to following RSS newsfeeds, you can also use it to follow people on Twitter, as well as your favourite YouTube channels. In addition, it gives you a special email address to be used in subscribing to your newsletters, so that they feed into Feedbin, too. You can also use it to follow podcasts. I’ve been using it for a month, and it’s great!

Here are some of the features:

Twitter: Stop mindlessly scrolling through tweets. Feedbin fully unpacks media-rich tweets. If a tweet links to an article, Feedbin will attempt to load the full article and display it alongside the tweet.

YouTube: Follow your favorite creators, with channels and playlists. There’s no algorithm or confusion about what you have already watched, just the videos from your favorite creators in chronological order.

Newsletters: Get newsletters out of your inbox and into Feedbin. Every pro account gets a unique email address to subscribe to and follow newsletters.

Updated Articles: Articles are updated whenever the original changes, so you don’t miss any important changes. You can even see the differences to know what changed.

Full Text: Feedbin can extract the full content of an article for feeds that only offer partial-content. This way you can keep reading without leaving.

Search: Feedbin supports a powerful and expressive search syntax to find exactly what you’re looking for. Save frequent searches to always have the results a click away.

So now I only post to my Twitter account via Mastodon, and I only read tweets from people I follow via Feedbin. This means that I spend next to zero time actually on Twitter—no advertising, no trending hashtags, no outrage machine! My Twitter feed on Feedbin also pulls up any items retweeted by people I follow, and in many cases, any linked articles in the tweets will have their full text loaded, saving me a click. It’s not the same as quitting Twitter entirely, but until more people come to their senses (and when/if Elon Musk drives Twitter into the ground), it’s a fair compromise.

As for YouTube, I can finally browse through only the channels I follow, without YouTube’s irritating suggestions for what it thinks I want to watch next. (And suggestions of music mixes based on my YouTube Music listening habits.) And no advertising unless, of course, the videomaker has a sponsorship in the video! I may never visit the YouTube website, or use the YouTube mobile apps, again. I should have done this years ago, folks.

Feedbin is the greatest thing since sliced bread, in my opinion, and well worth the subscription in alleviating the aggravation of having to deal with Twitter and YouTube algorithms! And, if Elon Musk goes through with his plans to lay off 75% of Twitter’s staff and the platform becomes overrun with toxic content and spam, I already have one foot firmly planted in Mastodon, and between it and Feedbin, I barely have to interact with Twitter at all, aside from keeping my account there.

If Elon Musk buying Twitter doesn’t sit right with you, there are tools and alternatives!

Birds of a Feather Presentation at SIGGRAPH 2022: The Dancers of VRChat Talk About Their Dance Communities

CGVR, a member of the RyanSchultz.com Discord server (now over 700 members strong, hailing from any and every metaverse platform!) shared the following two-hour video presentation with me, and I wanted to share it with my readers:

This was a “Birds of a Feather” presentation held during the SIGGRAPH 2022 conference held August 8th to 11th in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. According to the session description:


This Birds of a Feather is for attendees interested in the dance scene, communities and clubs in VRChat — including but not limited to “Calibrate”, “Club Poseidon”, “Club Zodiac”, “VRDancing”, “VR Dance Academy”, “VRPD”. We will talk about experiences with virtual reality dancers, what to make sure of when dancing in VR, how is it different from the real world, what are the pros and cons, and perhaps also a dance performance. The session is hosted and funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 101017779 (CAROUSEL+).

Organizers:

  • Noshaba Cheema – Max Planck Institut, DFKI
  • Archantos – VRPD
  • Chatmans – VRDancing
  • Pieter van der Linden – VIVITNet
  • Carmen MacWilliams – Grassroots Arts and Research
  • Kenny Mitchell – Edinburgh Napier University, Roblox

And the dance communities involved in order of appearance in this video:


Thanks to CGVR for the heads up!

London City in Second Life Remembers Queen Elizabeth II

Screen capture from BBC coverage of the Procession to Laying-in-State today

The State Funeral of Her Majesty The Queen will take place at Westminster Abbey on Monday 19th September at 11:00 a.m. BST (here’s a guide from the BBC which outlines all the events from today leading up the funeral). If I were a Londoner, I suspect I would be getting away from the city to avoid the throngs of visitors who want to witness such a historical event. However, for those of us who prefer to stay away from the crowds, virtual worlds such as Second Life (which has always had a strong British community) offer another way to mark the occasion.

Bixyl Shuftan of the blog Second Life Newser wrote on September 8th, 2022:

Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain [has] died…The reaction in Second Life has already started. At London City, a memorial was set up. It included a British flag at half staff, along with a crown on a pedestal with a flame at the base, a guestbook with candles, and three pictures that gave a slide-show of Queen Elizabeth over the years.

So I decided to pop into London City (website), a region of six sims which offers residential and business rentals, and has been a welcoming region for people new to Second Life for many years now. As you can see by the green dots indicating avatars on this map, it’s busy 24/7/365! People are commiserating with each other via both text and voice chat (I usually have voice chat turned off on my viewer; it’s much more common for avatars to use text chat to talk with each other in SL).

The memorial to Queen Elizabeth II (SLURL) is located in the northwest corner of the main gathering spot, opposite the long-running Freebie Megastore.

There are three large signs, each with a slideshow of images from the Queen’s life, a wreath, and a memorial flame.

Next to a set of votive candles (you can light one simply by clicking on it), there is a book of condolence which, if you click on it, you can add a message:

Nearby is a box where you can pick up a free memorial ribbon for your avatar to wear:

Like me, you may wish to come to London City, sign the book of condolence, and chat with other Second Life users around the world about the life and accomplishments of the Queen. Please check the official London City blog for updates on news and events in the region during this time of mourning.