Ev Williams on Ad-Driven Media

January 20, 2017

Medium laid off about 50 employees, mostly in the ad revenue group. Ev Williams, the CEO, published a blog post about it that explained that their ad-driven revenue model -- the same model that drives most media sites on the web -- is broken and unsustainable to run a business.

Upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to. The vast majority of articles, videos, and other “content” we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals. And it is measured, amplified, and rewarded based on its ability to do that. Period. As a result, we get…well, what we get. And it’s getting worse.

I’m sure there are people out there looking to solve this problem, but until anything better comes along, publishers are going to keep failing on the business side if all they're going to hope for is ad revenue to sustain it. Publishing needs to move to a subscription model, with ads making up a smaller part of the revenue, just like sports teams rely on season ticket sales to provide a stable revenue base.

Until that happens, web publishing is going to be a volatile business.

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Letter to U.S. Immigrants

January 9, 2017

To all current and potential U.S. immigrants,

I think you should know these three things:

  • A few of us are racists or at least xenophobic. I’m sure the same is true wherever you’re from, but we have a long history of mixing races and cultures – including a couple of centuries of slavery – so it’s different here. This group of Americans will never want you here, but don’t think this makes you special. They feel the same about many other immigrants before you, too. Unfortunately you and your children, and maybe your grandchildren, will have to confront this prejudice from time to time. American laws and government services are established to help and protect you.

  • Many more of us will welcome you. Most Americans remember being immigrants themselves, or are just naturally more open-minded. Those Americans understand that the U.S. has always had a mix of cultures, which is in fact its major strength and the reason for its global popularity. Welcome people into your culture and teach your children to do the same.

  • Bring your culture but also accept ours. You should continue your own ethnic and family traditions and even share them with other here. You can even create your own communities. Many of us do. But the payment for living in America is to accept American traditions and civic responsibility. The more you do that, the better off we’ll all be. America is a land of mixed cultures and always will be. Add yours to the mix, and teach your children to do the same.

We’re all here trying to make our lives and country better and you can participate in that.

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File the following under: “Mac Nerd”

Automator publishing to S3

December 20, 2016

I use Harp JS for this site. (Harp is a static site generator with almost the perfect balance between simplicity and customization, and I hope it lives for a long time. Go check it out.) I then host the static html files in an Amazon s3 bucket. A fairly common setup these days for static sites.

The publishing flow involves running a compile command for harp to generate the static files. Then uploading all the html—and sometimes a few static assets—to s3 via some FTP client. It’s not very tedious but I’d like to make the publishing step as friction-less as possible to remove any excuses my lazy brain has against writing more.

What I’m going to try here is to use Expandrive to mount my S3 bucket as a volume on my Mac, then use Automator to rsync the local Harp-generated files to the mounted S3. It does remove an extra manual step, but perhaps more importantly, it removes my need of having to think about what files were changed. Rsync can figure that out and just upload the changed files. So my full flow will be:

  • write post in markdown and update the data.json file in Harp
  • Run harp compile from the command line within the Harp directory
  • Double-click the desktop Automator script to trigger the sync to S3.

My hope is that this is easy enough that I’ll write a little more.

As for Automator, here’s the action I used:

Automator script
My super basic Automator script for publishing to S3

Nothing much to it. Once the S3 bucket is mounted to my iMac using Expandrive (and it usually is), I can use it as the target in the rsync command. The www directory is where Harp outputs the static site files after a compile.

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