Always being grounded on the year 1999

At the start of my writing routine the very first thing that happens is that I put the date at the top of the document. That happens within most mediums that I have used to produce content. Probably the part of that routine that still creates the most reflection on my part is the tick of the year at the start of that YYYY-MM-DD to be used explicitly as YYYYMMDD. Other date formats exist, but are never going to work for me as well as that cherished time based identifier. Within that routine the first little bit is the part that really gets to me during the start of the writing process. I have reached the point in my lifecycle where I look at the year and think how we got so far from 1999 on the timeline. For some reason the anchor point in how I put a context to the timeline is squarely placed on 1999 and the change over to the year 2000. Apparently, that is how I start to unpack the context of how I relate to bringing my experience inline with the now. 

All of that consideration in the last paragraph showed up today as I pondered if it really was 2023 and how we managed to get all the way to that point in the timeline. Without question the simple act of sitting down and typing on this keyboard does not require any particular year or date. In general, I could complete that action without knowing the current date. The two things don’t have to be related in any way shape or form. It would be pretty hard within modern society to give up using the calendar. Even if I was devoted to dropping that construct from my routine it would show back up pretty quickly throughout the day as people made plans and shared upcoming events. I’m not planning to even try to give up on grounding my days in the context of what day it happens to be. I am still thinking about how 2023 showed up and it’s here. 

This will be the third day in a row of posting some content to the blog. I’m sure WordPress will send me a note about being on a streak of some sort. My writing pattern used to be really consistent within the pattern of creating a stream of consciousness based pose during the week and really spending my weekend time working on more academic style writing. That type of writing pattern was really about focusing my thoughts via the act of writing for a block of time and trying to really bring my attention and focus into the thing that needed the most support in terms of time and energy. Part of that is about recognizing that we only have so much time and energy to spend and I want to focus it on the right things.

Permanence and the blog

People who are paying Twitter right now for access to Twitter Blue would be able to post the content of a weblog into a single tweet for the most part. Right now they are allowing some longer 4,000 word tweets to exist. Only the first 280 characters display in the feed, but the content exists on Twitter and could be displayed if somebody clicked on the Tweet. At one point, in the not so distant past that would have been a real measure of permanence. Something posted on Twitter could linger for years and even be read into the congressional record. Right now that reality has changed up a bit as the permanence of Twitter is less a resolute consideration of fact. Things are shaping up in ways that make Twitter as a company seem more ephemeral. At any moment, it’s entirely possible something that was valued at 44 billion dollars could be MySpace or Pets. 

My guess overall is that it will be more like Yahoo and something else will show up and claim the attention of the audience. Right now the supreme court is debating the very underpinning of the internet in terms of Section 230 of Title 47 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. That is perhaps the biggest potential change to how people communicate online since the advent of the internet as a mass communication platform. That is not hyperbole in any way shape or form. Removing Section 230 would change the way people utilize and interact with online platforms. Things may well get very interesting at some point in the not so distant future. It made me think a bit about what I should do with my online content shared on websites right now. That thought made me sit back and give permanence and the blog a bit more thought than it deserves. 

Right now my oldest musing can be found on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. For better or worse those musings were scraped and live on within that framework of online archiving. Currently, the bulk of my weblog is set to a private mode with 1,160 posts being walled off from easy access. Within that collection of walled off content are pretty much things that were written before 2014. I have considered retiring things older than a year, two years, and five years before as a natural cycle of my blog content. One of the things that happens or has happened so far is that I consider putting all that blog content into manuscript form and that idea makes me cringe. It would be a huge amount of work for a very limited payoff. To that end generally just thinking about taking that course of action is enough to stop me from ever really doing that. I’ll admit that a couple documents do exist with what would have been the corpus of content, but they never got edited. All that ended up happening was in my enthusiasm at that moment I started the process to backup the content. 

This blog is actually backed up in a couple different ways right now. Offline copies of the content are exported from WordPress and kept in a few locations. Right now the whole website and database are backed up and could be restored via a snapshot method. I’m confident that any actual effort to do a restoration would be difficult and ultimately frustrating. Every time the weblog itself has been lost before it was the images that were linked from posts were the part that ended up getting ultimately destroyed. Backing up words is easier than backing up the totality of the word, image, video, and formatting structure. 

It turned out that this blog post was not actually 4,000 characters long. I went over to Twitter to post it and the content counting well was not all the way full. My hope for this work this morning was to produce a completely full tweet. Ultimately, I was very close to achieving that goal without building out this last little bit of filler at the very end. If you got to this part of the content, then you probably get it and know just why this last little bit exists.

Thinking about online permanence again

Today I’m really focused on what parts of the internet are more permanent than others. A decade from now Today I’m really focused on what parts of the internet are more permanent than others. I’m curious about what will happen in the future, “A decade from now will GitHub and YouTube still be housing content?” It is really about my effort to question what will remain online year after year. Back on May 20, 2021 I released an album on YouTube called, “This is an ambient music recording called dissonant dystopia.” That work of art is 33 minutes of dissonant music and it will exist online as long as YouTube houses it. That means its existence is pretty much tied to the permanence of YouTube as a platform. I’m going to guess that a lot of content faces the same constraint. The continued existence of that art is tied to the platform where it is hosted. I could probably post the album to a few other places to increase the odds of it outlasting YouTube as a platform, but I’m not sure that is an effort that is worth my time. My guess about the future of online permanence is that Instagram and YouTube will continue to exist for as long as the modern internet persists as a technology. 

It is times like these when I begin to wonder what will happen to the world wide web when pockets of private isolation creep up within the walls of applications. We are seeing a fragmentation of what was the open internet. Be at the continued growth of dark pockets of the online world or just application based islands. You are seeing parts of the internet that you can gain access to the front door, but they are not truly a part of an open internet. They are something else and that something else is evolving right now before our eyes. We could very well see a change in the format of the content in the next decade. Sure hypertext has connected the world, but a metaverse will potentially be a video/image stream that is way beyond a text based communication method. Keep in mind that this weblog barely contains any imagery and the primary method of communicating content is text based. In a metraverse of rooms, zones, areas, or community spaces it is entirely possible that it will be immersive and that image and sound will define the method of communication that will be occurring. 

Really the most advanced method of communication I have considered is either recording these missives as audio for a podcast or working to make a video version of a podcast which just really includes a perspective of me reading the content. Either way that will be a one way method of communication either via text dissemination, audio recording, or video recording. It will be nothing outside of an asynchronous method of communication. I might respond to a comment or a note that somebody provided, but it would not be within an immersive environment. It would be purely asynchronous in nature.

Considering data permanence again

At the end of my writing session yesterday I accidentally sent out 307 tweets. Deleting every one of those by hand on Twitter as the rate limited API spit them out was a little bit nerve racking. My expectation was that either the deduplication feature over at Twitter would catch this or the integration code on my side was written well enough not to post things modified using the bulk edit feature. Neither of those things held true and logic failed. That really did mean that a bunch of people who had alerts turned on received a lot of updates notifications. Given that I have recently started using a vtech landline headset system to obfuscate my cellular connection to avoid notifications I’m feeling a little bit of shame related to that blaring coding mistake. 

Releasing those posts from the private mode back to published brings the public archive to a complete status from 2020 to current. At some point, I’m going to bring all the posts back from the 3,000 word a day writing habit period of 2018, but I’m going to need to fix that integration with Twitter before making that update. The easiest way to fix that integration would be to simply go to the settings menu and disconnect Twitter. Right now the setting for “Sharing posts to your Twitter feed” has been enabled. It would just take one click to disconnect it and that would pretty much solve the problem, but it would not do it via code it would do it via literally removing the potential for the problem to occur again. Maybe later this week that is what it will come to after some contemplation about the problem. I am really considering releasing the 153 posts that are currently set to private mode that occurred in that highly productive writing period. 

I have really spent a fair amount of time thinking about the nature of permanence and the written word recently. Until we start saving content to crystals (5D optical data storage) all of this writing and posting is going to be ephemeral at best. It is possible that my code on GitHub will be stored that way at some point and the GPT-2 model trained on my writing Corpus would fall into that storage process and be saved for posterity. However, just because content got saved to crystal and was potentially accessible for ages does not mean any interest in the content would exist. People might not boot up the Nels bot for dialogue and exchange. Most of the interest in complex language modeling right now is based on overwhelming large datasets vs. contained individual personality development. 

To that end I was reading this article called “The Pile: An 800GB Dataset of Diverse Text for Language Modeling” from the arXiv website from Gao et al., 2020. That diverse collection of data includes 825 gigabytes of content which functionally has been cleared of all sources and the authorship removed. This action has removed individuality from the language model in favor of generalization. Future models might end up going the other direction and favoring personality over generalization, but that might end up being more isolated based on what I’m seeing so far in terms of language modeling. 

On the brighter side of things, is that these experiences are focusing my research interests on that pivotal point of consideration between generalized and personality specific language models. I have a sample IEEE paper format template saved as a Microsoft Word document ready to house that future paper on my desktop screen right now. It’s entirely possible that after hitting publish on this missive that is where my attention will be placed for the rest of the day.