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  • I’m absolutely distraught to learn that the incomparable Scott Wampler has passed. He leaves behind such a vast void. He had a way with words. I loved hearing his perspectives on film, fiction and horror. He was a stalwart in the film community and was the former editor over at Birth.Movies.Death.

    He was close with filmmakers, writers, directors and creatives from all walks of life. The man was a bonafide comedian and in recent memory, began reaching new heights with The Kingcast, a podcast that largely covers the works of Stephen King. Guests included Elijah Wood, Guillermo del Toro and of course, Stephen King and more.

    We are worse-off without his quips, insights and jeering tweets. He will be sorely missed 😢

  • The (currently) invite-only social network has a new logo! It has other new features as well, such as lists and custom feeds. Ok, the custom feeds have been around for awhile. But, it’s new-ish.

    The new logo is basically the 🦋 (butterfly emoji). It’s simple and less non-representational than the nebulous sky/clouds photo or blue cube it was previously. This one seems fitting and easier to grasp (and meme).

    Update: the creator of the identity and logo direction is @fonsmans:

    Post by @fonsmans
    View on Threads
  • No doubt about it. Threads launched with gargantuan success last week. Twitter is getting absolutely gobsmacked. Threads growth isn’t even close to slowing down either. Adam Mosseri (head of Instagram) has been very vocal and active on Threads. If you haven’t joined yet, or you’re holding off, I have some good news for you. He’s been chiming in and keeping us posted on planned features that may sweeten your eventual arrival. We’re not sure what has been deprioritized versus what is imminently coming soon, but this is list of topics Adam has mentioned (so far) in some replies:

    Post by @mosseri
    View on Threads
    1. A chronological feed
    2. The ability to edit a post
    3. Hashtags are in the works
    4. Decoupling of the Threads account from Instagram aka the ability to delete your account without having to delete your Instagram account
    5. Multiple account support
    6. Translation tool(s)
    7. Lastly, Fediverse support. Very excited about this one. But, maybe Threads should iron about content moderation before this feature rolls out.
  • In 2019, Instagram and Facebook launched a standalone messaging app called Threads. It was originally designed to be a sort-of Snapchat group-messaging clone. This was all before Facebook’s big name change and pivot to Meta. Ergo, before Zuckerberg decided to invest in building out the Metaverse. Despite having millions in daily active users, Facebook decided to ultimately shut down Threads:

    The app today is ranked No. 214 in the Photo & Video category on the U.S. App Store — an indication of its continued failure to catch on with a broader audience. It’s also rated a middling 3.1 stars across 2,500 reviews as users complain about its usability, layout, missing features and glitches. To date, Threads has seen approximately 13.7 million global installs from across the App Store and Google Play, according to estimates from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower.

    This is what it looked like. Half-messenger app. Half-Snapchat clone:

    Once Threads disappeared, it was presumed to never return. I figured it was destined for the Silicon Valley graveyard of failed startups/projects (RIP Google Reader). But then, something wild happened. In October of 2022, Elon Musk decided to buy Twitter. This was meaningful because, ever since Twitter has been under Musk’s ownership, he’s basically nosedived the company into oblivion. This has left Twitter extremely vulnerable to competing social networking apps. There have been many cycles of users leaving for these Twitter-clones.

    Every decision he’s made has been a kiss of death: marketing, engineering, public relations, human resources, and so on. It’s been a nightmare for former employees, and a horror show contractors. To be blunt, Musk is devoid of compassion, and the first 90 days alone were not good for anyone. Ex-employees are currently in a arbitration lawsuit against Twitter and Musk and many having never received their severance. Lastly, the latest micro-managing efforts from Musk, have essentially broken Twitter.

    Instagram’s Threads app has been under development for some time now. At least the public has known about it since early March. Internally, it was understood to be called Project 92. It has an unmistakable design language. It’s very Instagram-esque

    From The Verge earlier this month:

    One of Meta’s top executives showed employees a preview of the company’s upcoming Twitter competitor during a companywide meeting today that was watched by The Verge.

    While Musk has been squandering cash and resources, Zuckerberg has been building. In what appears to be a stroke of serendipity, Meta & Instagram (aka the new Facebook) is launching the new Threads app this week amidst Twitter’s latest troubles.

    Threads’ (re)debut is happening just as users flock from Twitter (again) to competitors. But this time, it feels different. It feels more permanent this time around. A lot of users are very done with Twitter. Thousands of people are leaving Twitter behind for Mastodon in part because of Musk’s questionable rate-limiting nonsense. Both Threads and Mastodon are powered by an open-source protocol called ActivityPub. Which essentially makes them interoperable social networks. This interoperability, is not universally celebrated on the fediverse. Personally, I believe this will be good and healthy for the web. But that remains to be proven. This could all go sideways next week. According to reports, your Instagram handle will be your Threads username: @example@threads.net.

    This is a huge blow against Twitter. The headwinds are strong for Threads. Twitter has been on a losing streak, and chances are Musk will only make this worse. Instagram even put together a countdown on its site.

    It also was briefly on the Google Play Store earlier this week on July 1. It’s gone now, but will presumably be back on the Play Store later this week. Apple’s App Store on the other hand has it listed as a pre-order right now:

    What started as one kind of social network clone has become another kind of clone altogether! Who would have thunk. The drama, the suspense! It’s heating up, and I suspect this battle for the new “town square app” is just getting started. I’ll be sitting over here with the popcorn 🍿

  • Elon decided to break Twitter today. Now, this is not the first time he’s danced with breaking features of Twitter. I would link to all the other times but instead I’ll just link to The Verge’s excellent story stream of the entire saga since the buyout. Apparently he decided to “rate-limit” tweet reads for logged-in users, and to paywall the rest of the public.

    The real story here is Twitter is trying to cut costs and run away from cloud providers. In all likelihood, these recent changes from Musk are mitigation efforts to prevent their cloud costs from exploding. I mean, what did Musk think was going to happen? Allowing two hour video content uploads has ginormous cost implications. Regardless, they have decided to walk away from huge data contracts and aren’t paying their cloud bills.

    Twitter hosts some services on its server and houses others on the cloud platforms of Amazon (AMZN.O) and Google, Platformer said.

    In March, Amazon warned Twitter that it would withhold advertising payments because of the company’s outstanding bills to Amazon Web Services for cloud computing services, according to the Information.

    Since Musk’s acquisition, Twitter has cut costs dramatically and laid off thousands of employees. Musk ordered the company to cut infrastructure costs, such as spending on cloud services, by $1 billion, a source had told Reuters in November.

    Totally normal operations for a properly functioning company. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

  • For as long as I’ve known the web, I have known the little textarea element. It’s a simple element. In all likelihood, it’s just about as ubiquitous as the input tag on websites. It’s a captivating little thing. Before the modern inventions of React or complex JavaScript libraries, all it ever really contained was text.

    I suppose that’s the case to this today. But, it has long evolved into a springboard for authoring webpages. Modern publication inventions such as tweets, blogs, posts, blocks and countless others all stem from the textarea (sprinkle in some JavaScript magic, some drop zones and you have yourself a little “composer” where you can add images, video and more).

    Looking over the W3C spec for the textarea and looking back on SMS character limits (they were varied to say the least), it doesn’t take much imagination to see why Twitter came about in the first place. It seemed that short-form blogging was always destined to become a thing. Twitter’s success can largely be attributed to the fact that there’s really a lack of competition in the short-form blogging space.

    Tumblr and WordPress have always occupied the space between short and long-form blogging, sure. But, the spiritual successor to status messages (aka away messages)? Twitter has owned that (and marketed themselves as such) ever since it became a mainstream social network.

    While Twitter’s previous management has a long and well-documented history of running this company into the ground, Musk maintains no exception either. He’s nosediving and it’s headed for a calamitous user exodus. With no Trust & Safety board and a hostile CEO at the helm, banning tweets to Mastodon, banning journalists, then re-instating some of them — he’s clearly on a tyrannical, pathetic war path toward creating a platform that benefits Elon, elites and promotes a right-wing stochastic terrorist echo chamber.

    Needless to say, I’m getting the heck out of dodge. Like many others before me, I am kissing my neat little Twitter handle goodbye. Meanwhile, I was enthralled and delighted by Matt Mullenweg’s Decoder interview. There’s a brief point where he discusses what it means to be a good steward of Tumblr and how it has humbled him. Between Automattic’s Tumblr, the fediverse and this blog (which is also powered by WordPress an Automattic invention), I’m absolutely delighted to leave Twitter behind. Not to mention, the kind folks at Tumblr are considering adding ActivityPub support to their network which would effectively make Tumblr that largest Mastodon instance on the fediverse.

    You may be asking, “but, wait — how will I find my friends on Mastodon?!” Well, I have some good news! First off, don’t deactivate your Twitter. Follow these steps to get started with Mastodon

    1. First, join an instance. Doesn’t matter where you join! You can move freely about the fediverse. Think of each instance like an email handle.
    2. Next, add your Mastodon handle to your Twitter profile (this will make it easier for folks to find you in the fediverse).
    3. Finally, go here and sign in with your Twitter creds to find your friends who have also moved to the fediverse: movetodon.org

    With your help Twitter can be given a proper burial. It should go down as one of the worst acquisitions in business history and become the cautionary tale that it deserves. The textarea and microblogging on the other hand is never going away. In fact, I would argue that the slow death of Twitter reveals what we all want deep down — each of us want to own a little piece of web. One step closer to a de-commodified web utopia.

    Update: Elon banned links to Instagram, Mastodon and other social platforms and then reversed that decision. Then ran a poll on wether or not to step down, which ended with 58% in favor of him stepping down. Despite claiming he would abide by the results, there’s been no indication he would do so. Even more concerning, it appears he’s spellbound by the idea of restricting poll voting on Twitter to Blue subscribers. Welcome to hell, Elon.


    If you are so inclined, you can find me in several places on the web now!

    I’m on Tumblr where I may shitpost, share photos, re-blog cool things and whatnot: tumblr.com/petrey

    Elsewhere, on the fediverse I have several handles. However, I’m mostly here with my fellow hackers and unix computer club community: tilde.zone/@petrey

    Follow me wherever you’d like, but wherever you go, this blog remains ✨

  • It was a big weekend with this game leak. GTA 6 peaks and leaks are hyped up so much, they’re about on par with the level of hype Half-Life 3 confirmed memes. It just isn’t going to happen and everyone doubts the claims when users post them on Reddit.

    Until it does. The leaks over the weekend were genuine and bold. High-quality footage of the in-development game were stolen from Rockstar. According to The Verge, over 3GBs of videos were obtained by a hacker.

    On Sunday morning, the hacker posted a 3GB file containing 90 videos of early GTA VI gameplay footage, which aligns with previous reports that indicate the game could feature a female protagonist for the first time.

    Which of course elicited a response from Rockstar:

    You know you have the Real McCoy when two things happen:

    1. There’s an official Twitter response
    2. Reddit posts start disappearing

    For example, this megathread on r/GTA6 was taken offline sometime last night. But, not before the page was archived.

    Wayback Machine screenshot of the fabled megathread on r/GTA6

    While the gameplay is still in early development, the footage and content looks absolutely fantastic. Game leaks can be a kiss of death from the public. However, support for GTA 6 has been overwhelmingly positive following the leaks. Probably due to the size and variety of what was shared. In previous leaks, such as the Nvidia PC Leak of 2021, not much qualitative data was obtained. This was a gargantuan leak, and according to the hacker, more is yet to come.

    The videos (which have been taken down in most of the links on Twitter and Reddit) were very convincing and very Rockstar-esque. But, I found these two still photos from the deleted megathread to be the most convincing evidence:

    It’s bittersweet that these details were leaked. But, not much can be gleaned from the story from these videos and photos. There’s evidence of a male and female lead (which was previously leaked but these photos suggest a confirmation on the Bonnie and Clyde story mode) — but apart from that, not much else is known.

    What is known, is the hacker that stole the footage and data from Rockstar (which included source code mind you), is in some very hot water.

  • According to this official tweet from LA Metro:

    It’s happening! It’s long been known that LA Metro has been working on upgrading its TAP system, and it’s about time. Contactless payments are clearly the future. New York City has had it for nearly a year (although, not all 472 stations support it yet). I wonder if TAP contactless will be live by the time iOS 14 hits the ground running?

  • New site, who dis

    I haven’t developed a new WordPress theme for this website (that I really loved) in a long time. So naturally, it was time to re-examine my personal tech stack. If you personally know me, you know I’m a WordPress advocate. Big fan of ol trusty.

    There’s a few problems with WordPress I’ve been hung up on for a while now. It can be a bit slow (sometimes). Media managing can be painful on the front-end. Deployment processes are… all over the place. Historically, I’ve been a huge fan of Trellis from Roots. While we’re at it, I was a big fan of Bedrock too. Finally, I work with React and JavaScript all day long — why can’y my personal website run on a modern tech stack too?

    Well, I came across this post from Chris Coyier, and I was pretty much sold on the JAMStack concept immediately. At work, and at other organizations like Twitter, server-rendered pages are stupid fastest. Heck, they’re typically standard these days for most web apps. Enter the Gatsby + WordPress stack. Why abandon years of publishing paradigms when you can keep them?

    There’s no shortage of tutorials on the Gatsby + WordPress setup. Initially I played around with some starter projects, like this one. I personally started (and later forked) with egghead.io’s starter. It’s pretty spectacular out-of-the-box, and if you enjoy love @emotion theming or styled-components, I think you’ll dig too. But, really Gatsby itself has a lot to love. For example, Gatsby has drop-in support for server-rendering. Super cool stuff. I really enjoyed Juliano Rafael’s (@frontendwizard) notes on this subject:

    Progressive image loading? Inlining of critical CSS? Painless PWA configuration? You name it, Gatsby got you. It is really impressive. Don’t believe me? I encourage you to try it out.

    The solution for images is so good, that is constantly referred as a strong point of Gatsby, even thought it actually is a plugin. All you gotta do is add a couple of plugins into your Gatsby config file and you’re good to go. Your images will be available on the GraphQL API at build time and the image component will handle all the resize, picking the best file format and everything else. You even get a blur up effect to improve the user experience for free.

    That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Seriously. These web apps freakin purr. I’m overdue for writing a full tutorial on this subject, so stay tuned. But, for now I want to share a high-level overview of the technical lift I undertook for my site migration.

    My order of operations (yours might be slightly different):

    Now that we have our API-site prepped for deploy-hooks, exposed the frontpage and menus endpoints — we’re ready to consume the API with our server-rendered React app powered by Gatsby. Here’s a sample of my gatsby-config.js file:

    ...
    resolve: `gatsby-source-wordpress`,
    options: {
      // Your API WordPress source goes here.
      baseUrl: `example-api.https://stephen.news`,
      protocol: `https`,
      // Fetches posts, tags, categories, etc from the baseUrl.
      includedRoutes: [
        '**/menus',
        '**/categories',
        '**/frontpage',
        '**/media',
        '**/pages',
        '**/posts',
        '**/tags',
        '**/users'
      ],
      useACF: false,
    },
    ...

    I absolutely love this setup.

    All of the un-fun configuration stuff is already handled by the WordPress/WP REST API side, and all of the actually fun conventional interface building is done on the… well, the interface side. A complete separation of church and state, if you will. It’s a thing of beauty. Absolute zen.

  • I think any genre succeeds from a few of these recommendations. But, a good rule of thumb, constraints are good. Typical creative constraints make you squint your eyes and see the world differently. Think of them as adding or subtracting weight resistance like at the gym. Only instead of working out your body, you’re exercising your brain! Here’s the first tweet in the thread:

    Adrian Bowyer is a retired Mechanical Engineering professor from University of Bath. A careered researcher in computational geometry, geometric modeling, and Biomimetics. According to his website, he is the founder of the RepRap Project, “humanity’s first general-purpose self-replicating manufacturing machine.” Pretty awesome! Sounds like he has some insights we should all hear out.

    Here’s the entire thread (saved from Thread Reader here) in a bullet-list for posterity:

    • The overriding rule, never to be forgotten, is: “Coincidence is a failure of art.” – Tom Stoppard
    • It is easy to blow something up. It is hard to have a character say something original, insightful and clever. But writers are dirt cheap. The ratio of explosions to wit should be 1:10 or less.
    • If at any point a reasonably scientifically informed audience is going to say, “But… PHYSICS?!” do it another way. The same goes for not following Darwinian evolution.
    • If the action is set in the future or the past, go through the script and remove every contemporary informal idiom of speech, where “contemporary” means at least the last fifty years. Replace EVERY cliche with a newly-coined metaphor or phrase.
    • The good guys should not beat the bad guys (if they do) because the bad guys have a system with a single point of failure.
    • Human culture has much more continuity than saltation. Have characters in the future occasionally do something from the past as a hobby – making bread, riding a horse, painting in oils; that sort of thing.
    • Spend money on set dressing. They won’t have oil drums in the future, nor will ship’s containers make it to other worlds.
    • Constraints make things more, not less, interesting. In particular, if something is powerful it should be difficult to use. For example, if someone is capable of telekinesis, then, when they use it, it should cost them a few days bed rest. And so on.
    • The Universe runs on conservation laws (Lagrangian symmetries). To make them more convincing new phenomena should also exhibit conservation laws.
    • Arthur C. Clarke’s “indistinguishable from magic” law is true. But that’s not an excuse to put in any old glowing-orb nonsense when the plot needs a deus ex machina. Go back and rewrite the plot so the deus ex machina isn’t needed.
    •  Faster than light travel makes everything parochial, and therefore less interesting.
    • Bipedal life will be very rare in the universe, as it is on Earth.
    • Artificial gravity is less captivating (!) and less probable than weightlessness.
    • “Go with your gut,” will be just as terrible advice in the future as it is here and now. Plots should reflect this immutable fact.
    • Brainstorm a number of un-commented-on technical innovations and put one in the background of each scene for the audience to notice, or not.

    Give Adrian (@adrianbowyer) a follow on Twitter here.