tales from urban dilettantia


Good Reads: A Miscellany of Blogs

I love reading the internet. Lots and lots of the internet. All of the internet!  No, that’s unreasonable; that’s too much internet.  However, I do use Feedly to subscribe to more than I can reasonably read, and  have resigned myself to occasionally declaring RSS bankruptcy and marking all as read.

I also have a habit of talking ad nauseum about the things I’ve read, and as a result, a number of people have asked for a list of the blogs I subscribe to.  Now, you probably don’t actually want a list of all the things I subscribe to, given that they include an assortment of high-volume feeds that largely post junk, but reliably throw in a few gems one can pick out by skimming the titles.  (I also have a list of around ten to fifteen low-volume local blogs of various sorts I subscribe to, that aren’t particularly relevant if you’re not a local, although I heartily recommend curating a similar list relevant to your own area – it’s a really nice way to tune in to what’s happening around you.)

And so, sans the junk, the webcomics, and the overly location-specific, here are some of my current favourites.

FlowingData: Data visualisation, infographics, and statistics.

Information Is Beautiful: Distilling the world’s data, information, and knowledge.

Mind Hacks: Neuroscience and psychology tricks discussed and perhaps explained.

Schneier on Security: Security and security technology.

Cipher Mysteries: The latest news, views, and research on uncracked historical ciphers.

Ribbonfarm: Experiments in refactored perception.

Atlas Obscura: Curious and wondrous travel destinations.

Google Maps Mania: Tracking the websites, ideas, and tools influenced by Google Maps.

Making Maps: DIY Cartography: Resourced and ideas for making maps.

Messy Nessy Chic: Blogging the off-beat, the unique, and the chic.

Strange Maps: Cartographic curiosities.

The Mapping London Blog: Highlighting the best London maps.

Strange Harvest: Architecture, design, culture.

Visual Complexity: Visualisation of complex networks.

Colossal: Art, design and visual ingenuity.

I’ve also become increasingly interested in finding great podcasts over the past couple of years (better late than never), so I’ll post a list of Good Listening shortly, to brighten your commute.


I’ve been thinking this week about reducing the amount of content I send to Facebook, and this thinking has meandered down two separate paths, being the theoretical and the technological.

The theoretical:
Facebook bothers me for more reasons that I’m going to articulate here (don’t even start me on intellectual property fail and privacy issues, let alone junk economies based on social obligation) but at the moment the central one is that it pushes ‘real names everywhere’ as an internet norm.

Let me tell you something about ‘real names everywhere’: it’s the manifestation of great privilege. Of being so safely mainstream that one can be oneself without fear of a public mauling. Of being so vanilla, so straight, so monogamous, so apolitical, so moderate or so non-marginalised (or non-furious at or oblivious to marginalisation) that being absolutely authentic amongst one’s family, one’s various social circles, on one’s workplace, church or community is a given, not a risk.

On a very slight tangent, there are a couple of excellent posts doing the rounds at the moment on the topic of identity and pseudonymity which are worth a read, in response to the outing of an Australian public servant as the political blogger Grog’s Gamut:
If you can’t defend yourself, you shouldn’t be allowed to speak
Spartacus no more

The technological:
I’ve used Facebook fairly heavily to share content because it does a number of things well and and makes those things very simple. One-click link sharing via a bookmarklet. Photo sharing. Crowdsourcing. I particularly enjoy the way in which all the content I’ve posted is shown in a timeline on my wall, and how I can go back to something I posted a week or two ago and point it out to someone on my phone.

The question, then, has been how one might replicate this ease in a more pseudonymous domain. While Twitter is the obvious hub, its content management is largely non-existent, with users relying on third-party offerings such as TwitPic. (Which is perfectly reasonable – simplicity has long been Twitter’s strength.)

Yesterday, however, I stumbled across my long-unused Posterous account and discovered that the service has seen a large amount of development over the past twelve months. It can now push content to numerous sources, including Twitter, Friendfeed, Tumblr, Flickr and WordPress, and pull content from a similarly impressive array. Like my ‘Share on FB’ bookmarklet, the ‘Share on Posterous’ bookmarklet offers one-click image, link and video sharing, with the Posterous micro-blog serving as a repository and host for the shared content. And, unlike Facebook’s ‘Include image: 1, 2, 3, or 4’, it offers flexibility in the content clipped and displayed.

This may not ultimately be the alternative I’m looking for, but it’s certainly looking interesting enough to be worth a try. The idea that all the content I would otherwise have shared on Facebook (and so reluctantly cloistered within the service’s walled garden) will be associated with my flyingblogspot identity, rather than being cloistered a single site associated with the name Facebook would have you believe to be my only ‘real’ one.


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@dilettantiquity is interested in an unreasonable number of things, including the wide and wonderful universe, happiness, well-being, wine, optimal human experience, non-violent communication, complex systems, existential nihilism, rationality, technology, grassroots organising, cacophony, music, creativity, learning and love.