On retreat

Taking a slice of my own advice, I am going to be fully present for my class on Madeline Island.

I’ll return to the blog on Sunday,  July 28. Be nice to each other.

Frog on the porch of the farmhouse

Frog on the porch of the farmhouse

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46 thoughts on “On retreat

  1. Another design flaw in the WordPress system is the poorly-implemented system of hierarchical comments. You can reply to a comment but not all of them, and it seems like it doesn’t always work correctly.

    Things like this happen because the original designers of a system take a narrow view of what their system “is”, so when people in the real world start using it in unanticipated ways (which is *always* the case) it doesn’t work very well.

    Sometimes a software tool continues to add use cases as they’re discovered. This is seldom pretty; you get things like Microsoft Word, which today can do an astonishing array of things, but can only be described as an ugly accretion of features, hardly “designed” at all any more. Occasionally something like HTML comes along, which seems to “scale up” more gracefully. The real story, though, is often that what’s really going on is continuing evolution of a much more robust underlying design. HTML is a tiny subset (and special case) of SGML, a huge, complex, but very comprehensive specification of “how to represent any kind of information in plain text interspersed with special tags”. What’s really going on with HTML is that it’s expanding to implement more of the functionality previously anticipated in SGML (which is surprisingly old).

    It’s always seemed to me that there’s a correspondence between software design and real-world work. You can repair and extend a real-world machine, after a fashion, with things like scissors, cardboard, duct tape, and felt-tip markers. Exceed the design specification of your car window (that is, break it) and you can tape some plastic over it — it’ll work for a while. Need to take photographs? A cardboard box, piece of foil, and a pin can get it done — after a fashion. But the results will be better and last longer if you get the window replaced, or if you spend some money to get a real camera. Software is the same way. Sometimes an original working “machine” is maintained and extended with the equivalent of duct tape and cardboard; sometimes an entire task is tackled with a cardboard box and some foil.

    Wonder why you can enter text in some places on your computer and take advantage of deep, nuanced capabilities to make it look and feel just the way you want, but in OTHER places (like this text box) you can’t? Duct tape versus engineering.

    • But then, a little piece of duct tape goes a long way.
      Wasn’t it you who said that Symbian is much more powerful than Android? That really intrigued me.

      • I don’t think I’d have rated Symbian as “more powerful”, if only because I’m not sure what that would mean. Symbian is (was) inherently more secure, but it had deeply-rooted limitations in memory management, particularly graphics memory. That made it very difficult to provide modern frame rates in animation, competitive resolution and color depth. Symbian also had severe limitations in typographic display, and it was never supported by the kind of developer tools you have for iOS and other platforms. Most Symbian development, even at Nokia, was done via command-line tools rather than IDEs (Integrated Development Environment).

    • Pity we can’t duct tape a chat room on for occasions like this . . . when the cat’s away us mice will play! But then, do we all speak the same language? It’s English yes, but with cultural overtones . . . here we go again, having to use our own brains to decipher the nuances.

      • That’s a *great* idea, and IMHO the way software should be designed. That is, it should enable people who use a system to participate in making it work the way they want. Almost all software today is still based on the assumption that there are “insiders” (from the IT masters in the server room to the developers to the administrators who “own” a website) and “outsiders”, who just look at and use systems in limited, completely forseen ways.

        In the real world the buildings that are used, loved, and endured are modified to suit the people who use them. Software should be the same way.

        • There are WordPress plugins for chat rooms, but I don’t know if you can add plugins at wordpress.com. There are services like chatzy.com as well.

          • I could have one on my website, which is a WordPress base. But frankly, I can’t handle another vehicle that I spend time on without a financial return. Much as i would love it, I have a family to provide for and an older house that needs a long list of upkeep.

  2. Hi Quinn,I am journaling, laughing, and crying tonight. I believe that soon I will be dancing, singing, and creating in the barn, perhaps until the “wee, small hours of the morning.” Too bad we are on different sleep schedules! If you were awake, I might challenge you to experience the combination of lyrics, energy, and creating while dancing! See you tomorrow, Bambi

    Date: Tue, 23 Jul 2013 07:01:25 +0000 To: bambiej@msn.com

  3. Have a wonderful time Quinn! We’ll all try to behave while you’re away but there are certainly no guarantees for Pete or Ray, haha! Personally, I am not going to even attempt to keep them in line because they crack me up and Pete makes me scratch my head so much that it doesn’t itch anymore.

    • Hmmm, no guarantees…sounds like a challenge. You know, however, that we really should be investigating what Quinn is REALLY doing on The Island of Misfit French Cookies.

      • Like Pete, you are already misbehaving, like you know, with all your like comments below! haha

        Quinn is going to crack up when she reads how we’ve all hi-jacked her blog while she’s away. That’ll teach her to never leave us unattended again.

        • This is why I post a blog every day, to keep you guys constructively busy. Otherwise (only some demographics will get this) there will be making trouble for Moose and Squirrel.

      • Different spelling. . .oh, that’s what you meant by misfit. The island was a big fur-trading location in the 1600s and 1700s. Noe the popular spot is Tom’s Burned Down Diner.

          • I’d like to say that it looks like adding a like button is, like, fairly simple (like “piece of cake” easy), and it could be a lookalike to the facebook like (or like some other like if you like) but I can’t insert it without Quinn’s participation (or it would be, like, very rude).

            Personally I don’t like like; I’d like something like like but not quite like like. More, like, nuanced, y’know? A like like “like” but only “like” like, not “like”.

            Alas I can’t figure out a legitimate way of stringing 4 “likes” together.

          • As you like, like it would be great to have variantions on like, like like, like a bit, like a lot. The like on facebook sometimes means anything but like. I posted about a 6.5 earthquake we had on Sunday and how scary it was and someone liked it! What’s with that?

            And it’s almost more that I can cope with to use like in any other way that just plain, that’s nice, or I agree, sort of way . . .and don’t get me started on ‘nice’ as I don’t actually lafford much affection for the word . . . to say something is nice or you like it sound a bit like cop outs. And I certainly don’t aspire to be nice. Kind, comsiderate, generous, yes but nice? It’s like a washed out puce although some people probably like it . . . each to their own though

            Could we have . . . I agree, well said, that’s exactly what I think but don’t want to say it all again because I couldn’t have put it better? Quinn will no doubt come up with some stunning labels.

          • Quinn has her hands full in class, which she is enjoying. I’m not a big fan of like buttons, or those endorsement things on LinkedIn, which I always think I should thank people for.

          • Pete, a variety of likes would be really good! Not those stupid onedimensional handgestures (which haves totally different meanings elsewhere in the world).. but a set of universal likes. Even at Apple nobody
            ever came up with that as far as I know..

          • It’s a more general case of “intentionally limited feedback”. There are plenty of ratings systems in use, from a “star” system (which Apple does use and I think dates back to the unlamented eWorld) to similar things used with (and by) moderators on insanely big and busy sites like slashdot.org. Anyway I think there’s no need to build a new one; it looks like WordPress has several possibilities already.

            But anyway the general case is interesting; providing a way to offer nontextual feedback to a piece of text, itself offered in feedback to a “top level” piece of text. “Like” is, I suspect, as simple as a one-button mouse for the same reason there *were* one-button mice; when a control system is brand-new to users they don’t all find it easy to make more than a “yes/no” choice. In the late 1980s people really were confused by multi-button mouse choices, in the context of “never seen or heard of any pointing device before”. By about 10 years later there was enough collective experience with pointing devices that a one-button mouse seemed like it was no longer needed (there’s a bit of a mystery in there, but not for just now).

            Things are moving a lot faster now, so it’s only taken, maybe, half as long or less for a “one button like” to start to seem like a problem. What’s really needed, maybe, is a truly multidimensional feedback system that nevertheless doesn’t require entering (or reading) more text. The “thing being rated” should at least be able to move “up” or “down” in some rating scale, and ideally some other directions as well. “Well said but I don’t agree”, or “yeah, kind of”, or “funny but true” should be reactions you could register without (1) writing them, and thus (2) requiring everybody else to read them.

            If it were up to me, I’d implement a facial recognition system. That is, sort of like a system of “smileys” but based on your own expression as interpreted by the camera on your computer when you tell it to look at you. The skeleton of this already exists; just wait (and not for as long as you might think). The problem is not so much recording reactions as communicating nuances in composite reactions.

          • Indeed Pete it is all about the nuances in facial expressions that require the right software that interprets correctly and transmits it back to Quinns posts. What about using shades of colors?

  4. Is this the time we have a chat without Quinn around? (Her range of talents have created a wonderful community.) Dancinghairwoman, not only do I love your non-de-plume I really enjoy your comments. Pete sometimes loses me, after all, I do usually read this at 6:00 a.m. but I enjoy the tangents he takes. I could go on and name more of you, like Jo Murray . . . liked her comments so found her blog and discovered I loved her art as well. I’ve discovered quite a few artists I admire in this way.

    So, like Dancinghairwoman, I enjoy the comments as much as the column and like Ray 4115, I’ll be really nice!

  5. What a great community of folks we have here! I anticipate the comments as much as Quinn’s blog. You have all become my morning tea “friends” full of lessons, good advice, compassion and humor. Thanks for hosting us Quinn.

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