Presents – Bah Humbug

You shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth — Traditional saying

This saying has some truth in it.  What it doesn’t explore, is whether the person actually wanted a horse.  I’m thirty seven years old, and not a child, I don’t get all starry eyed by gifts.  In all honesty, they tend to make me feel awkward.  I should be thankful, shouldn’t I?  I have a hard time doing exactly that and I am not a good actor.

It isn’t even a secret! I openly say: “Please no presents”, and I mean it.  At my age you should be giving presents to your own children, not receiving any from whoever.  Yet, people don’t listen.  This year a particularly clever one wrote on the present “not a present”.  Inventive, I admit.

Each element in the set of “objects” (and thus its subset “presents”) can be pretty much sorted  according to the properties “need” and “afford”.  The “need” factor is pretty self-explanatory: it defines whether I need something or not.  Logic says that if I don’t need it, it doesn’t make a good present.  You can thus eliminate all objects which I don’t need.
At first glance, the “afford” property doesn’t seem have any importance.  It does, because affordability determines whether an object is obtainable to me.  Since we already eliminated the objects I don’t need, only objects that I need are eligible.  I can either afford those, or I can’t.  If I can afford them and need them, I’ll buy them myself.  So, a good present can only be something I need and can’t afford.

There’s the rub: There is a property we haven’t talked about which applies to the subset “presents”, and it’s “appropriateness”.  Well, expensive presents are, by definition, not appropriate.  This leaves us with an empty set as potential gifts, which means it is logically impossible to get me anything.

Please, save your money, spare me embarrassment, and don’t get me anything.  In our family, we decided decades ago that presents were a no-go.  Best … decision … ever…

The rant that wasn’t.

I wanted to write a rant about social media and everything that’s wrong with it. I found that I deviated into topics and subtopics and really didn’t manage to make a poignant point. Now, I saw a comment on Facebook that really pretty covers it all. Not totally, but good enough:

On social media in the past

I may sound like a hipster by saying: “I have been using social media before it even was named that way”. Well, I also could sound arrogant, but you should be used to that by now. When “blogging” didn’t exists, we nerds had our own webpages that we kept updated… or not… They were rarely dynamic and were basically “fuck, yeah, I have a website” websites.  You can’t call those “social media” yet.  In a sense, it’s ironic that you are reading this on a self-hosted dynamic website.

What we now call “social media” emerged in a certain form on a community-based news website called slashdot.org.  It’s a nerd hangout, so if you haven’t heard of it (but if you read this, you most likely have) don’t worry.  Somewhere before 2001, they introduced a concept called friend/foe.  You could mark users with a little “pill” whether you liked them or not.  I think this was a first necessary step.  The second step, may have been introduced at the same time, or may not.  I simply don’t remember.  What I do know, is that by autumn 2001, slashdot.org had a featured called “Journals”.  Basically, that’s what we call “blogs” today.  When you wrote something, the people who marked you as a friend got notified.  It was an instant soapbox!  I could talk about the world, tech and others worries and I have!  What was wonderful was that people actually read it and they could reply!  Imagine that!

For me that was the “first” social network.  You had all the key ingredients: basic publishing and a friend/foe based network.  I’m not saying slashdot.org was the first.  It may well have been, but I don’t know.  What I do know is that it was the first “social network” I was exposed to, and I used it a lot.  slashdot.org didn’t evolve much past what they made in 2001, at least not from the perspective I have as a user.

All current social networks have these basic properties:

  • Ability link users together
  • Ability to publish for each user
  • Ability for other users to interact with published items
  • Basic notifications between users to be able to keep track of interactions

Most of my contacts left slashdot.org, or they don’t post any more.  I rarely post there myself. Other social networks have taken over, with an audience that is much less technical.

These slashdot.org users often are in my “modern” social networks, but -apart from a few exceptions- I don’t know who is who due to the usage of real life names.  In a sense, I really preferred the handle-only identification.  To many of them, I am still “jawtheshark” (or “jts” in short), but by now many call me simply “Jorg”.  I bet most don’t even know how to pronounce that…

What’s my point?  I have none, but I wanted to give this background information before going head first into a rant about how people fail to handle social networks of today.

First post

My wife asked me to get her a blog.  Obviously, I could simply have pointed her to wordpress.com or blogger.com, but what’s the fun in that, right?  I have lang.lu, so why not simply give her a wordpress under nathalie.lang.lu, right?  That should look “cool” to even the least technical person out there, right?

Infrastructure?  I have infrastructure.  I made lang.lu use my DNS servers.  Then I simply created another Xen DomU on my lab server and installed wordpress and mysql-server from the repositories.  I have to admit, that setting it up is really easy, once you actually understand what goes where.  Next time, I swear, it will only take the promised 5 minutes.

The main complication was that all my infrastructure is behind an OpenBSD server.  I usually don’t run apache/php or any other cgi-based stuff on that machine, because I’m slighty paranoid.  Well, after looking into Apache reverse proxies, I had my solution right there.  Of course, you need to adapt your wordpress for that, by setting bothe WP_HOME and WP_SITEURL to the effective url, you’ll be using.  I really don’t understand why these package can’t simply keep all generated url relative.  Is that so hard to do?

Well, it seems to work now.  Well, it wasn’t really planned, but there you go: I have a “blog”.  Ain’t I hip?