I have been tearing my hair out since last night, when I noticed that my blog, which normally looks like this:
Suddenly started looking like this, with all the fonts wrong:
Now, I am very picky about my blog, and this is the kind of thing that drives me crazy! I spent half an hour in live text chat with a WordPress support person early this morning, and it turns out that I had to turn off two plug-ins I regularly use with Firefox, Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin (which I use to block trackers on most websites as I surf the web).
Privacy Badger is a program from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). It’s a browser extension which stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, Privacy Badger automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser. uBlock Origin is an excellent, free-and-open-source (FOSS) ad content blocker, available for several of the most widely used browsers, including: Chrome, Chromium, MS Edge, Opera, Firefox and all Safari releases prior to 13. I can recommend both programs highly, but I sometimes run in trouble (like I did yesterday evening and this morning), when something stops working or doesn’t work properly, and I forget to check to see if either Privacy Badger or uBlock Origin is the source of the problem.
So, if you are visiting my blog, and it looks like the second picture instead of the first, try turning off uBlock Origin or Privacy Badger (or both) if you have them installed. (There are other ad blocker plug-ins like Adblock Plus, which might cause the same problem. I no longer use Adblock Plus, because I find uBlock Origin to be superior in every way.)
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.
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.
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 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+).