in Book Reviews, general, Reviews

Finished: The Story of Hong Gildong (Korean Classic) translated by Minsoo Kang 5/5⭐️

I love reading folk classics. They’re simple yet so eloquent. This one was no different. There are some life lessons, some drama, some awesome supernatural elements. It even has a whole thing about filial piety and honoring your ancestors. I only saw this before in the Indian context, so it’s interesting that it’s actually a pan-Asian thing. We should resurrect this in societies where it doesn’t exist anymore.

There are one critique of this story. Largely to do with how repetitive it is. But can’t really blame the story for that. Folk stories have a way of saying the same thing in a hundred ways. After all, what happens when an awe-inspired Korean child asks Grandma, “and then what happened?” Grandma has to invent a whole new adventure for the little one to enjoy. So the story of Hong Gildong gets another chapter.

I found this repetitiveness in The Tale of Genji too, which I’ve tried to pick up twice, only to DNF it again and again. Luckily, the repetitions in thing Gildong’s story were fewer and more interesting.

Reading and Writing Streaks

I started the year with a random fun challenge. StoryGraph hosted a January challenge which simply stated that if you read 1 page of a book or listen to 1% of an audiobook every day of the first month, you get entered into a draw for prizes. I didn’t win (and they handled the announcement for the results in the most horrid way – through an Instagram post), but it was a good enough boost that I’m trying to continue the streak. I’m at 50 days right now. I usually read more than the 1 page requirement or finish a few percentage points of audio at the very least, since it doesn’t make sense to gate myself to 1 measly sheet of text. I read till I can. Sometimes, that is when I fall asleep at night; other times, it’s when I reach where I’m driving to.

Anyways, I’m adding another challenge to my daily schedule – that of blogging every day. Now, I could have done it on this blog, but I also wanted to experiment with Ghost. In fact, I was just mucking around with an installation of Ghost, when the topic of naming the website and giving it a subdomain came up.

I went with The Daily and the goal is to post for a hundred consecutive days. Simple enough goal and the best part is, since it’s a separate blog, I don’t care if it’s drivel. I can just post random thoughts there and that’ll get counted as a day. Not that my posts on this blog are Nobel-worthy 😀

Right off the bat, I noticed that Ghost has positioned itself too much as a Newsletter platform with monetization. Sort of like a self-hosted Substack. This is fine, since anyways it needs a hook. For years, WordPress’ hook was that it’s the most prevalent blogging platform. With the introduction of Gutenberg, it’s shooting itself in the foot in that regard, but gaining a lot more – it’s now the most prevalent Page Builder platform on the web. Good for corporates, bad for indie blogging.

A LOT of competition has stepped in that pool in it’s wake. The latest one I’ve come across is Bear Blog. Seems nice enough. But I’ve gotten too used to being on my own domain and hosting things myself. Not backing down from that any time soon. Hence, Ghost.

So I’m exploring Ghost and I’m trying to blog daily on it for a hundred days. There’s no newsletter subscription on that site, there are no comments allowed, and I am not going to actively syndicate that site to anywhere else. If you find its RSS feed and want to follow along, you’re welcome to. Cheers!

On responding using your blog

but I don’t think I would like to make my blog mainly about conversing with others

Meadow over at their blog

I respect that. I follow hundreds of blogs, exactly what Meadow is musing about not doing. But I don’t converse with them all, and certainly not on my blog.

My blog sits idle most of the time, until I have something I want to write. This may be private or public. But writing goes here. (Journaling, of course, goes into Day One.) That may involve responding to someone, as this post is, or utterly random musing, as the one by Meadow.

I like this about blogs. They’re not one thing. They’re defined by whatever is important to the steward. That’s why I follow so many.

Watched: Mr & Mrs Smith – the TV Show (2/5⭐️)

We went in hoping for an action packed TV show with loads of fun intrigue and fight sequences. We were disappointed. It was an avant garde take on a spy thriller. In between hours of just talking and talking and talking, the protagonists did some action and shot up a house. That’s it. It felt like Amazon Studios told them that they don’t have budget for stunt doubles, so they skimped on proper action.

On Threads

Sewing threads

I love blogging. It’s a world unto itself. Sites reflecting people’s personalities, their lives, the ebbs and flows of their writing muscle (or photo posting muscle – I do love photo blogs), the business of their lives.

Social media is not like that. Well, some are and some aren’t.

I was reading this post by Ally Bean over on her website where she asked and answered the question – What is Threads (the Facebook-owned twitter clone)? It’s a conundrum, she says. It’s got so many users and yet not enough interaction. Threads calls itself a social network, yet everything is algorithm-led, so you can’t really do your own discovery. And, as Ally puts it –

The thing about Threads is there is no center to it to draw people to a communal “What’s Happening” section or a Writing Prompt or a Weekly Topical Challenge. It’s all random all the time.

Ally Bean writing on thespectacledbean.com

My take on this is that there are two types of social media services and mirroring them, two types of social media users. There are the public-first services and the private-first services. There are always exceptions to the rule too.

Public-first services basically take their cue from forums – there’s less or no focus on private messaging. It’s all meant to be open. Whether they’re link aggregators like reddit, or stream of posts sites like twitter, the main goal is that whatever you do on the site is public. Your likes, comments, shares, posts are all visible to everyone. Over time, through user feedback, these services do introduce private accounts, private communities, private messaging. But they pull these features back as quickly as they create them. The intrinsic value they create for their ad-supported profit hungry shareholders is in people doing things publicly.

Private-first services take their cue from email – the first focus is on private communication, which is thoroughly monitored for profiling, again for ad-dollars. Of course, there’s a massive public component of these sites too, including public groups and communities, public profiles, etc. But these are focused mainly on creating starlets with the aim of using these to drive traffic to the site till either the starlets crash and burn, or the algorithm changes and the starlets are left in the lurch. This behavior is similar to that of the music industry, which would assiduously create the persona of a pop singer, only to push them towards drugs and then tear them down as “bad influences”. Rinse and repeat. Facebook and Instagram are examples here. It’s sad that the two main examples I have are both owned by the same company. Snapchat is a competitor service too, but I don’t talk about it because I’m not on it. No network effects for me there. (I’m not on Threads either, but Ally is, and this post is wholly based on her experience and her blogpost. Quick! Someone write a critique of Snapchat!)

The fact is that I’m ignoring two behemoths here – TikTok and YouTube. But are they social media services? No. They’re Media Consumption services. The Social aspect of these services is purely incidental and meant only as a growth vehicle. If tomorrow they are free of the constant user growth requirement, they’ll gladly rip out all of the social aspects of their apps and sites and happily serve their existing users all the content they can shove down their throats.

Within the private-first but public-stream services, the trend is algorithmic feeds. This is a little unfair, because this push into algo-based feeds is by one company – Meta. Their unbenevolent dictator believes that everything becomes better when decided by an algorithm. So that’s what he’s pushing across every one of his properties. But you can’t talk about any other service doing better when there’s one monopoly and the others are fledglings.

That brings us back to Threads. Facebook and Instagram already lean heavily on algorithms for their home feeds. You’re not allowed to see what you want to. You’re forced to see what the algo decides will create more engagement.

But what does this lead to? Silence. Almost everyone I know who is active on Instagram no longer uses their home feed. It’s the list of folks you’ve subscribed to, yes. But never shown in the manner you want to, so might as well use the Explore feed to browse and the private messages to chat with friends about the latest news/memes/gossip (that’s why Instagram uses your private messages to create your profile too). Also, Silence in that, those who I’ve talked to about this no longer comment or hit like on instagram posts. Comments on public pages almost always lead to harassment and unnecessary visibility. Likes are exclusively used by the algo to make your feeds progressively worse by trying to push the same content at you over and over. So why hit like? Incidentally, this is why TikTok prefers to use “seconds watched” as the metric for whether the person was engaged rather than Likes.

Ally complains that it feels rude when people do not interact with her comments on Threads – forget replying, they don’t even hit Like. I argue that this is because the users on Threads are a reflection of the social media service they’re coming from. Almost all the users of Threads have come over from Instagram. They’ve been trained not to interact with content, as that’ll either train the algo or cause unnecessary headache. They’re not rude, they’re simply a reflection of Facebook’s vision of “users”.

Threads isn’t doomed to fail. It can recover and it’ll definitely keep trudging along as long as Meta is willing to lose money on it. Once they decide it’s not the next billion dollar idea though, they’re sunset it post haste. Looking forward to it. Till then, Ally’s words about Threads ring true –

it just kind of bores me.

Playing with a new iOS app

Playing with new quick notes app called Funnel. Pointed by Agam on his blog.

The power of such apps is to quickly get to a writing place. The problem with such apps is that they need a prominent place on your homescreen.

My homescreen has been locked to the current set of apps since a very long time. The second page is flexible. But I don’t see how the first page would be. I’m not sure what the fate of this app will be either.

I mean, I literally have the free version of Drafts sitting on the second page and I rarely use it. Maybe I should just use the back tap feature of iOS to do quick thoughts capture?

Deleted some node_modules

Recently realized that when I backed up some old code a few years ago to my Dropbox account (I know, not the best practice, but whatever), I also backed up a lot of node_modules folders. Sent them all to the trash the other day.

Dropbox emailed me after the deletion process completed to tell me the final count of files deleted.

It sits at 400385.

400,385.

Four hundred thousand, three hundred and eighty-five.

It boggles the mind.