Weekly Whaaa…?

Don’t Call It a Comeback, RSS Feeds Have Been Here For Years

Although I’ve been using RSS readers since well before Google Reader joined the many other projects (often mercilessly and pointlessly) killed by Google, NetNewsWire has become a much more prominent part of my day for the last couple of weeks.

Sometime early last week I went through all my old RSS subscriptions and asked which still bring me joy. Then I unsubscribed or marked many as “read” in bulk.

Now, when I would usually peep in on Mastodon or a Discord group, I instead find myself gravitating toward NetNewsWire’s “Today” section.

Unlike social media’s endless scroll and endless context shifts, the “Today” section brings me more substantial “chunks” of reading and a recognizable endpoint. While I anticipated the benefits of having an obvious stopping point, I didn’t foresee how much I’d prefer having slightly larger chunks of reading and fewer jarring shifts in context.

It probably helps that I’m following a large number of feeds, and a few people who post small updates throughout the day. (These folks often post to their own microblogging sites with IndieWeb microformats or to IndieWeb-oriented services like omg.lol and micro.blog.)

This means that I’ll usually see something new in my RSS reader, even if it’s only 2 to 20 new things rather than the hundreds of new posts I’d encounter on Mastodon.

Maybe I’ll start doing more frequent, smaller posts as well? If you’ve got a site, consider this more encouragement to add an RSS feed and to make it prominent and easily discoverable!

“Author, Author” & AI

We watched the “Author, Author” episode of Star Trek: Voyager as part our of first viewing of all of Star Trek. (In homage to the Memory Alpha wiki, we’re calling this our “#ViewingAlpha”.)

In this episode, the Doctor—an “Emergency Medical Holograph” who has grown far beyond his expected role as the ship Voyager’s supplemental medical support—has become the author of a holonovel. (Yep, holonovel: an interactive work of fiction playable by any immersive holodeck.)

As part of the Doctor’s ongoing story arc—one that parallels many similar “not quite human” characters in the series—this episode revolves both around his relationship to his crew mates and his legal rights. Can he legally be granted copyright for the work he’s clearly created?

The episode immediately made me think of Olaudah Equiano’s excellent slave narrative/captivity narrative The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, as well as the ongoing copyright questions generative AI technology currently presents.

Whether you’re deeply familiar with Star Trek or relatively ignorant of the series, I think it’d be an excellent stand-alone episode to dip into. (Full disclosure: I haven’t rewatched it before writing thing. But I don’t believe there’s any necessary context that isn’t explained within the episode, particularly as what Samuel Delany might call “a significant distortion of the present.”)

I’m still toying with the idea of having one or two seasons of Star Trek: Voyager or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine be part of my dissertation, and this is one of those episodes that’s strong enough to be persuasive.

Site Refinements of the Week

Looking over my site’s commit history, I spruced up a few things this week!

Most are accessibility-related things you might not immediately perceive. Which will probably be a running theme, whenever I post this sort of “site refinements of the week.”

First, I realized that the Minimal Mistakes theme, which I use for my site, uses an <h4> heading for the on-page table of contents. Maybe there’s a reason for this—but in practice on my site, there’s always a skip from the page title’s <h1> level to much lower <h4> level. As WebAIM explains, it’s best not to introduce this sort of jarring skip. So I fixed that pattern, at least for my own site! I might end up submitting a pull request as well.

Less related to the theme overall is the introduction of aria-describedby attributes to the button-styled links on my home page. These mean that anyone using assistive technology will hear the descriptions associated with the buttons, just as someone would quickly perceive visually based on the layout.

Although they haven’t hit the live site yet, I’m also tinkering with switching my footnotes plugin from Bigfoot to Littlefoot.

I believe Littlefoot will have better support for screen readers, plus it seems easier for me to understand its CSS, which means it’ll be that much easier to connect its CSS to the theme switcher I eventually plan to add.