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Dr. Edward Morbius ⭕ @dredmorbius

I've realised a few things about tootstorming.

1. It's ... possibly frighteningly ... fun. Once you get on a roll, you're marshalling your thoughts in 500 character, roughly 80-word, nuggest.

2. That's about the same size as one of my 4x6 index cards, filled out fully.

3. Which means it's a bit like outlining an essay, though of course, Timelines and stuff mean that everything is strictly sequential.

4. People can respond to individual cards, either boosting, favouriting, or commenting.

@dredmorbius If you respond to yourself, you can create a basic essay that allows people to interact with each part.

@deadsuperhero @dredmorbius the idea of integrating instance donations with the UI is a good one. Visual feedback on the state of the instance.

@bob @dredmorbius It doesn't necessarily have to be in-your face, either.

Just a graph showing the goal for covering monthly server costs and a donate button might go a long way.

@deadsuperhero You and I may have to start up Mastodonics Anonymous.

@deadsuperhero Bingo. As someone who shrieks into the void far more frequently than I care to admit, that's so incredibly valuable.

@deadsuperhero BTW, great thread there as well.

Another useful feature might be "tootstorm of the day" or "Tootstorm Digest", which points these out.

5. Which means that the feedback is highly specific. For writers, this is difficult to find.

6. After I got my rhythm, I started to aim for cards which were individually quotable themselves. There's a fine balance here between building anticipation and momentum, thank you Shaharazad for giving us the cliff-hanger, and in creating a toot capable of standing on its own. I think I managed to pull off a few, though there are others that span the line.

7. There's the question of how to indicate sequence itself. I didn't number either the cards or the points within them in my Chrome Tabs rant, and whilst I as author can follow the thread that's spawned from it, including others comments and my responses to them (the original posts don't respond to anyone), and /I remember what I wrote and was thinking in the first place/, I can see the experience being far less clear to someone stumbling across it.

@dredmorbius If you link to your last main paragraph in a thread, the view is condensed. This assumes that your main points are a chain of responses to one another.

@deadsuperhero Correct as well.

This means that a link /within/ the Storm points as well to the parent. I utilise the same feature/trick on my Bio / FAQ pages.

That's not apparent though from the Stream view. Some sort of "this post has a parent, really" indicator might be useful.

@dredmorbius Yeah, I think the "finish your ramble and then answer responses" is probably the way to go.

@dredmorbius The best thing I've found for my style is to not number unless they really must have people read the whole thread. This forces ideas to be entire units, or have enough context to stand alone. Combines well with wanting to have people comment - because many times people will take the idea out of context and it helps me gain further insight thru serendipity.

Being said, I was burned by someone else not numbering & expecting me to realize it was a thread. I'm still mad about that.

@dredmorbius I think this is why tweetstorms have become such a big "thing" as well, especially since the birdsite improved its threading feature. 500 characters might be more suited for this than 140, though. Isn't this how humans think, anyway? In small bits and pieces instead of big blocks of text?

8. This is, then, a form that serves writers more than readers.

9. There's the question of how to build out the storm itself. I opted for a series of replies to a single top-level post. In a client which offers threading and thread-pruning, then, by filtering to a depth of one and the original author, the original essay would be clearly presented in tabs. Which is, come to think of it, all the more reason to see an open standard and diversity of clients such that capabilities as this exist.

10. I try not to respond directly to the comments which start piling up (and it's impressive to see how quickly they do), to the extent that they might derail a thought. It's generally better to go back and address those afterwards. Usually.

11. But @stephencoyle's remark about people thinking in chunks, is absolutely on point. It's a /feature/ of our brains. Some might call it a /weakness/, but applying a programmer mindset, behaviours are things to be adapted, if possible.

@dredmorbius Really interesting collection of thoughts here!
Can I ask though, while it sounds like something I might say, I don't remember making a specific remark about thinking in chunks, where did you see it? Or maybe you mean to tag someone else?

@dredmorbius Haha, no worries! I was wracking my brains trying to figure out if I'd tooted or blogged something to that effect in the past, but that makes a lot more sense!

@dredmorbius Yes, my first name, "Stefanie", is written with an "f" (instead of a "ph"). Interestingly, people from English-speaking countries almost always get this wrong.

@stefanieschulte I'm used to it both ways, but got ahead of myself. Sorry!

12. So, yes, if it's easier to present a small, reasonably contained, reasonably consistent, tightly chunked idea in 70-80 words or so, it may be easier for others to follow. If you go through the history of language and communication, this is how sagas, chant, lyric stories, poems, and the like are constructed, in part. Though with rhyme and meter and melody, all of which are extraordinarily powerful mnemonic devices. Prose relies on plotting, foreshadowing, and structuring, mostly.

I think the major difference between here and something like birdsite is that the 140 character limit makes tweets more akin to aphorism and idiom generation. Or perhaps more like koans, or stanza's in a bit of poetry.

The structure makes it awkward to splay sentences across multiple tweets thus favoring brevity and compressed language. Terse, like speaking only in 'TL:DR;'s

TL;DR: "Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words."
— Robert Frost

13. What I see out of the earlier storm is, well, how to improve it. The obvious: typos and misspellings. Missing references. Stuff I should have said but missed. In this particular essay, the most salient element of the complaint: that the more the tool in question isn used, the worse it gets. I've already got more ideas for another essay on that topic.

14. As I opened: this is fun. It is for the author an excellent content-capture tool, something far too many Web tools make hard.

15. The ability to type, to have as my prompt only the initial post (I'm keeping tabs with the developing thread in another tab, and refer to that for context), and with these nice, roomy textboxes that Mastodon gives me, is wonderful. There are a few other sites that offer a similar "no other distractions" composing environment: Ello, Google+, for the most part. Not natively, but using the Reddit Enhancement Suite, Reddit. (The native Desktop and Web UIs are absolutely abysmal though.)

16. As a writer, what I need most essentially are a) space for words, b) no distractions, c) an absence of fear -- of interruptions, of losing my work, of losing my concentration, and d) the ability to call up references and include them -- what I write ties in to what others have written, quite often.

17. It is beyond sad and disappointing to find how many tools fail to provide any of these facilities at all, let alone all four. On Android, the last two are fundamental platform failings.

18. Shit simply disappears. If I happen to glance away from a browser tab for a moment, all that's in it may vanish. Various aspects of the Chrome tab problem relate to this, and the underlying failure:

19. Contempt for user state.

20. That is: the developers, at all levels, from the OS, apps, browser, Web systems, simply do not care or address the concern of the user in preserving the ephemeral yet critical structures they've drawn about the information being utilised.

21. And the whole stack is so craptacular that those at the top of it (web applications designers) have to go through heroic efforts to provide even rudimentary security. Ello, to their credit, have done this, for posts, and posts alone. Not comments. Not post edits. But if you start writing a post on Ello, and find you have to discontinue it, or that your browser tab has reloaded, or Android has pooped itself, it's going to stay there, for a long time. I tested this unintentionally.

22. I'd started two longish posts (that is: which required thinking, and time and space to think), which ... I probably shouldn't have published anyway. On two different systems. (Ello's post feature only preserves one per local client.) They did eventually disappear, but it took several weeks, perhaps a month. In the scheme of state persistence online, I'm prepared to call that good enough for now. The ability to save drafts, in multiples? Sure, that'd be nice. But you take what you can.

23. The inability to reference things, or to use the reference archives I've built (Pocket, hello, and yeah, I'd still like to hear from you sometime on my "It gets worse the more I use it" comments, any time, y'all) without fear of everything in a particular web dialog blowing up is particularly critical to my working style. The card-at-a-time format actually works nicely for that, as I can think of something, pull up the URL, and utilise that in a single card. I'm mitigating risk to 500 chars.

@dredmorbius do I really have to scroll back to number 1 to see what this is all about? 😅

@NinahMarie You don't /have/ to, of course.

But that the option /exists/, I think, is a tremendous feature.

Open any individual Toot on its own, and you'll find the parent, the parent gives the full thread.

@dredmorbius Haha oh my. You're right. I think I'm still asleep 🙈🙈 I'm stupid! Thanks!!

24. Once I'd found Termux, /and/ the Termux API and termux-api packages, I could finally copy and paste between the Android app space and a fairly functional shell, including vim, tmux, w3m, and some related tools (if you don't know, don't ask, if you do, you're my people). And am productive. The principle limitation here is that I can see /either/ the terminal /or/ Androidland, but not both. Grabbing content from the Web is possible via w3m, wget, or curl. PDFs are a lot harder.

@dredmorbius having the basics in a few easy steps along with midnight commander and python, all without root, is a blessing. This app is a lifesaver and my mobile hacking station.

@dredmorbius perhaps an alias to open pdf with an android intent pointing to a gui app would work. I haven't tried it myself but I guess it should work.

@alexandros There is one, termux-share, which I've wrapped in a bash function "open". It calls the intent handler with arguments, generally a file.

@alexandros The problem is I've still got the display problem: I'm /either/ looking at the terminal, /or/ at the PDF reader (PocketBook, FBReader). I cannot see what I want to retype /as/ I'm typing it, from Termux.

@dredmorbius oh, ok, calling it to split screen would be great but for that no solution comes to mind. Dumping the pdf content to text would be a way but that's already an overkill. I'm guessing you are on android 6, no? Otherwise on 7 you open the pdf, push the app switcher to bring up split screen and choose termux. Then there's the keyboard.. Yeah it's a tough nut to crack.

@alexandros There are PDF-to-text utilities (part of ghostview, generally), but they rely on the text being in the PDF in the first place. Next track is to OCR the graphical content and generate text. Again, this exists.

But those aren't tools which are (yet) available on Android. I have a set of these on OSX and Linux. Some work better than others.

What I'd really like to see is some way of combining efforts on this sort of task, as has already been done with Wikipedia.

@alexandros I've done a considerable amount of work in some cases to take texts which are in PDF, or ASII, or other formats, and clean them up. If I can get to a Markdown or LaTeX source, I've got the bones from which to kick out other formats, including conformances to, say, PDFs. Though there, what you want to do is align the textified version to the imaged pages, such that the text layer corresponds by both page and screen position to the scanned-in image.

@alexandros There's also the metadata problem I've mentioned earlier to @stefanieschulte -- a filesystem layer which is, probably again, more like a library than a data-and-blocks system, MARC format, or an equivalent.

The Internet Archive, Wikisource, Project Gutenberg, the Hathi Trust, and Google Books are all extant projects addressing parts of this space, and I might to well to see how my own efforts might fit with those. My /direct/ interest is not to be a librarian.

@alexandros But my goals /are/ served by having very good, very usable, and ideally standardised, online libraries, with comprehensive content.

@dredmorbius About tweetstorms, politics and gender: npr.org/sections/alltechconsid

Someone coined the term "mantreading" when several male tweeps discussed US politics via tweetstorm, but this might miss the point. Tweetstorms have always been popular among female users as well (and they might have invented the technique): twitter.com/sarahkendzior/stat

@stefanieschulte Interesting article. Though I've got a whole bushel of problems with terms like "mansplaining" and "manthreading" being tossed around casually. Even /where/ accurate, they are terms which have a great deal of opportunity to make a situation worse, and little to improve, defuse, or prevent it.

That's not a denial of privilege or behaviour, but its /also/ a reflection on dynamics of such discussions. There's an essay on the topic I may need to write.

The thread/form bits...

@dredmorbius I think "mansplaining" is more about the receiver than about the sender: Most people seem to be much more patient when men act that way than when women try the same. In real life, I have a tendency to ramble, too, but people usually interrupt me quickly.

I don't think this is the same in social media: Women's tweetstorms don't seem to be received less favourably than men's, at least in my experience.

@stefanieschulte Specific instance comes to mind: someone had posted about a gym/workout issue, being worse at a particular lift than they wanted to be. I responded with some pretty commonplace, though effective, advice. I'd had no idea if the poster was a man or a woman, and didn't much care, I'd followed them for a year or more. The response was that I was "mansplaining'.

I pointed out the several issues with the claim, and tried to return the matter to workouts. It didn't stay there.

@stefanieschulte At which point I elected to delete my contributions to the thread and block the user.

If the first assumption coming out of the gate is that some pseudonymous profile writing in good faith is mansplaining...then productive discussion seems unlikely to happen. I don't have the cycles for that fight.

I've been trying really hard not to cheer loudly in agreement with @maiyannah's recent thread about the privilege knapsack. But her views are refreshing.

@dredmorbius @maiyannah Counterpoint: In real life, I often have to listen patiently to men rambling on and on about topics I'm more knowledgeable about than they are, but they don't let me get a word in edgewise, no matter how hard I try. This behavior is socially acceptable.

If I tried to act the same way, that wouldn't go down well. It's not socially acceptable.

This is why this remains a sensitive issue to me, although I do experience it less on social media.

@stefanieschulte @maiyannah I get that. I /don't/ think it's socially acceptable, or more clearly, it shouldn't be.

I think ultimately this is more fundamentally a /power/ thing than a /man/ thing, though yes, men quite frequently have power.

It does happen to me, at least at times, and it can be phenomenally annoying.

Discussion of the Charlie Hebdo shootings a couple of years back raised the point of punching up vs. down. That's a very strong point.

@dredmorbius @stefanieschulte One also learns to be assertive rather than aggressive or passive.

@maiyannah @stefanieschulte As I've hinted (loudly) a few times, I find you easy to agree with.

I've learnt that being assertive helps define boundaries. Though that comes with a whole mess of the standard cultural freighting. I'm aware of that.