Weeknotes – Ending 23/06/23

Hello! Welcome to another (slightly late) edition of weeknotes in which I unpack the week that has just passed.


Unintentionally a few things converged all within this week which made it super busy. A weekend away, a concert, school trips, inset days, an event and a family hotel stay complete with pool + spa. Whilst we’ve all had a good time, I think it’s fair to say we ended the week being quite happy to be back at home.

Looking ahead to week 2 of holiday, I’m hoping to spend it mostly pottering around and not doing anything terribly productive. Spoiler for the next weeknote: a leak underneath the kitchen counters would ensure that Monday was spent doing unplanned DIY.

GovCamp Cymru 23

On Friday I went to GovCamp Cymru in Cardiff. It’s normally the one time of the year where I get to see people in person that I only get to keep in touch with virtually most of the time. I did a write up of thoughts about the event which you can read here if you’re interested: https://neiltamplin.blog/thoughts-from-govcamp-cymru-2023/

Internet like it’s 1999

I’ve been slowly retreating from big social platforms over the last five-ish years. It’s been a combination of feeling like the drip feed of content is actively bad for my mental health, and concerns about how my data and social graph was being used. As the old saying goes.. if you aren’t paying for it, you are the product. And I’ve been okay with that in some cases where I felt as I was at least getting some value in return.

Most recently I’ve been weaning myself off Reddit, which isn’t something I post a lot on, but I’ve definitely used it a lot as a reference point for news or techie stuff. This has lead to some experiments with kbin and Lemmy, both of which are part of the “Fediverse“, which means they run on ActivityPub which was made popular by Mastodon.

The interesting thing about federation is that it means that nothing is centralised. I know this is often percieved as a negative, because it’s much harder to have singluar places for communites. For example, if you were interested in Gardening, on Reddit there’s a Gardening sub-reddit. In the federated equivalent, you could have a gardening community per server instance which bodes the question… “Which one should I join?”. And I guess the answer is.. “Which community looks like the best one to join based on what you want to get from it?”

It very much reminds me of the time before web 2.0 before user content started getting monitised. I used to be a member of lots of different forums for different things. They weren’t massive communities compared to the likes of some of the Reddit ones (which can run into the millions of people) but perhaps that’s okay? Once communities hit a certain size, I think it’s much harder to create and maintain social connections. I think minus an algorithm you also get out of communities what you put in. So unless you’re willing to go in and learn the ettiquette, contribute and build relationships it could end up feeling like a pretty solitary experience.

I’ve also been playing around with Pixelfed, which is an alternative to Instagram. They recently released some functionality to import your Instagram content. I stopped actively using Instagram a few years ago, largely because it felt like it became an ad delivery platform first, and a image sharing mechanism second. In order to download my Instagram pictured, I needed to log back in to request a zip file. I was pretty shocked doing a quick cursory scroll through my timeline. I’d say it was 90% random content from people/products I don’t follow. Now, this might be because all the people I used to follow have also stopped using Instagram, or it could be that the need to monetise has basically shaped the alogorithm to show me things to consume over and above my social connections. Urrgh!

Anyway, I did manage to import my old Instagram pictures and I fully intend deleting my account because I’m convinced there’s zero value in ever trying to use it again.

Anyway, back to Pixelfed. What I really liked about Instagram in the early days was that it encouraged taking and sharing pictures from your day. Kind of like polariods (didn’t the app icon used to be a Polaroid camera) it recognised there was joy to be found in snapping random pictures and sticking filters on them like a 1st year art student. Using Pixelfed brought all these memories back. In fact, it was a little bit jarring at first that I wasn’t seeing some ad or influencer every 3-5 pictures. It’s just people sharing pictures. Nothing more, nothing less. And because user numbers are relatively low compared to Instagram, the speed at which the timeline moves is pleasingly sedate.

Again, I know some people will percieve that as a negative. We’ve all become worringly dependent on the algorithm to keep us contantly entertained, but I’ve found it really freeing and calming. If you want to see me taking pictures of food, flowers and other random stuff I come across, you can find me at https://pixey.org/i/web/profile/514412487491588266

Interesting things…

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