Weekly note for 5-9 February 2024

This started off as a daily not for Monday, and has been sat in draft all week as I add more and more to it…


Had a proper chance to watch this and read about it – “Place-Based Public Service Budgets: Making Public Money Work Better for Communities”. Nice bit of big picture thinking around local public services. We need more of this sort of thing.


Bluesky is now open for anyone to join. No more invite codes! It’s like Twitter used to be. See you there?

This is rather lovely from dxw – “Content design: the very first step”.

Looking at Beehiiv as a potential Substack replacement. That spelling though, yikes.

Talking of which, I sent out the first newsletter of the year this week.

Resetting digital government – this piece from Jerry Fishenden has attracted a lot of attention.


In Neil’s recent week note, he linked to a bunch of interesting approaches:


Making a PDF that’s larger than Germany.

This is an interesting piece about YouTube and how content creators chase the revenue, resulting in a worse experience for viewers, and how this is resonant of the way the web went.


Nice video from Giles Turnbull, giving a talk to folk from the state government in British Columbia about using the human voice in communication.


Improving Bluesky

Bluesky is definitely feeling like the nicest Twitter/X replacement going. But it’s a long way from perfect.

The community feels compact, small but friendly. There’s a sense that people want to be there, and that it isn’t a chore (Mastodon sometimes just feels like hard work). It’s chatty, and whimsical, which is just how early Twitter felt.

It definitely needs more users. Hopefully the invites are dropping regularly enough to keep the flow up.

The main issue for me is that the web interface is really clunky. It’s ludicrously hard to actually clear notifications, so often it looks like there’s something new happening, when there isn’t. I find myself refreshing the browser a lot, which shouldn’t be necessary really.

The app on iOS suffers in the same sort of ways.

There’s also a bit of distraction with Bluesky – all the stuff about servers and things. I guess that important to people who think federation is important, but I suspect those people are limited in number. Most folk just want a usable, stable, Twitter-like experience that isn’t full of horrible behaviour.

Dave Winer would like to see Markdown style editing. Am not totally convinced of that, as I like the plain text approach, and I guess you can still use markup, only the reader has to use their imagination 😆

One thing it lacks, which actually I don’t care about too much, is private direct messages. Twitter/X has those, of course. Sometimes they are useful to drop someone a note to say you’d like to talk to them about something. Maybe though, it would be better to just let people feature their email addresses or other ways to contact them on their profiles. After all, nobody needs yet another place to check for these things.

What they definitely shouldn’t do is copy the way Mastodon does private messaging, which is a proper dog’s dinner. ‘Private mentions’ are almost indistinguishable from public ones, and it terrifies me!

Twitter

The latest ridiculous behaviour from Twitter seems to genuinely be sending the site into a death spiral, which saddens me in a lot of ways. I’ve been on there since the early days, and I’ve built a reasonably sized following on there as a result. I don’t really have anywhere else where I can easily put things that a sizable chunk of the people I’d like to see them would actually have a chance of doing so. But it’s more than that: Twitter was never just a channel, it was also a place I made actual friends, folk who I speak to regularly. Loose communities formed, dispersed, and reformed as and when they were needed. Looking back, those who were saying that Twitter wasn’t really a company, it was a bit of internet infrastructure, were probably right, but nobody listened.

So now there are hundreds of alternatives sprouting up, including the Instagram based Threads which is due to be released on Thursday. Bluesky seems popular, Mastodon is doing well within its slightly dorky niche. But what they all lack is the moment. It’s 2023, not 2007 when all this seemed so new and exciting; it’s not 2010 when the whole world seemed to wake up to what was possible on sites like Twitter. Without that excited, exploratory, experimental surge, I’m gloomy about the prospects of any of these places filling the gap that Twitter did, uniquely. Imperfectly, but uniquely.

If someone, somehow, managed to lift my whole Twitter network and shift it into a different thing, I would jump there like a shot. In the meantime, I think I will keep dabbling, but also spending time on more personal, and less ephemeral, spaces like this blog – and maybe make use of the newsletter more.