Frey Thorvaldsson

Recently - New job, IndieWeb, Orwell and Rory Stewart

Written by Frey Thorvaldsson

Lockdown

As of today, in Britain about 12m people have received the first dose of the vaccine. Every day people are getting more optimistic and it appears that by Easter things should start returning to normal. I have been considering going to Iceland for a bit since things are open - but with the influx of good news I’m becoming less keen.

I can't wait to finish lockdown and get back to normal life. Although lockdown has been good to me in a lot of ways, every week since November, I've had a day a week or so where I feel apathetic and anxious. I’m very much looking forward to go from coping to enjoying life.

New job

I’m starting a new job in a week. I’ll be working at Mettrr doing front end development. Last night I dreamt that my boss was Dan Abramov - I think that bodes well. I’m still surprised that people are happy to pay me to write code. Most of the time it doesn’t feel like work.

I’m excited to get started. The team has been very welcoming, the tech stack and the product are interesting. So, it's not at all a bad place for me to wind up at.

RSS / IndieWeb

This website now has an RSS feed, which you can find here. I was inspired to take this small step by reading about the IndieWeb while stalking James Van Dyne's ongoing project of creating a brand new CMS.

The IndieWeb is an interesting corner of the internet. It’s composed of techies trying to loosen corporate control of our online lives. It’s about making your personal website your online home.

The idea is to use your site as the “authoritative” version of all your social media content. For example, you might post a picture on your website which then gets published to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This lets you own your data and gives other people a chance to interact with your content without a social media company as the middle man, all the while you retain the benefits of reaching people who use traditional social media. This approach is called 'Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere’, or POSSE for short.

On top of all this we have some interesting new standards cropping out of this like webmentions. Webmentions make it possible to know when someone has linked to your page and enables you to display information about the link on that page. At its best it might look like something like the ‘Follow up & commentary’ section at the bottom of this Tom Macwright article. I’ve yet to see something as clear and nice as that, though.

I’m not convinced that IndieWeb's idea of a distributed social media is going to ‘catch on' in any big way but I love the experimentation and the philosophy of the IndieWeb. It reminds me a bit of the early days of Bitcoin. Idealism paired with innovation but struggling to find a use case. I’d say it’s way better than Bitcoin because it doesn’t have the taint of financial speculation.

Orwell

George Orwell at the BBC

I re-read a number of George Orwell’s essays lately. He had a real talent for writing timeless stuff. In the tumult of the 20th century he focused on the principle behind events rather than the events themselves, which makes Orwell relevant even today. He's at his sharpest when disecting British politics and attitudes towards nationalism. For example, the following quote remains true 80 years on:

England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box.
― George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius

One essay I hadn’t read before was “Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool”. It’s a essay on Tolstoys thoughts on Shakespeare. It’s like a good crossover episode. Now we just need a modern great to analyse George Orwell’s analysis of Tolstoys analysis of Shakespeare - and so on. The essay is good fun, you can tell that Orwell feels passionately about Shakespeare and is a bit peeved that Tolstoy just doesn't get it.

Rory Stewart

I’ve been developing an unhealthy crush on Rory Stewart since I read his book Occupational Hazards, about his time in administrating a province in Iraq.

Stewart's talks on British foreign policy are great as he’s clearly given a lot of thought to the subject (and how to communicate it). Stewart's style mixes just enough practical examples with idealism to make for engaging talks. I’m relatively ignorant about foreign policy so a lot of this stuff is totally new to me, so to a degree I’m not just excited about Stewart but the subject.

If you watch one of his talks, watch this one. In it Stewart fields some impossibly informed questions from the audience who are clearly all British foreign policy wonks.

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