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Month: January 2023

On leaving Twitter, embracing Mastodon, and recommending Ivory

I joined Twitter back before it was a social media juggernaut. I don’t remember how many years ago that was, but I blogged about it back at least as far as 2007… which was a long time ago. Twitter was the social network that allowed me to make friends, meet interesting people, learn and grow… also to get irrationally angry, unduly stressed, and unnecessarily anxious at times. Learning how to use it for my own improvement and not to my own detriment was a continuous process.

Twitter’s decline over the past few months under Elon Musk’s ownership has been well documented. Functionality was axed. Content moderation staffs were fired. Longstanding rules were set aside on the boss’s whim. Nazis had their suspensions lifted. Third party apps (the only way I used the service, anyway) were cut off without any notice or announcement. The reasons to be done with Twitter grow more numerous every day.

I haven’t closed down my Twitter account, since closing it releases the username back to the wild. Not that I’m so well known that my username is desirable for someone else to take up, but still. But I locked the account down, deleted the apps from my devices, and just don’t go to Twitter in my browser any more.

Enter Mastodon

I was an early adopter of Mastodon, too – at least as far as creating an account back in 2019 when it released, then forgetting all about it. When the Twitter shenanigans started I decided to dive into the fediverse in earnest. I’ve written previously about setting up and administering a small Mastodon instance at IowaDon.org. It’s humming along with about a dozen active users. That doesn’t sound like many (and it isn’t), but thanks to the magic of the fediverse, we interact with hundreds of thousands of other users who are members of other Mastodon servers around the world.

Mastodon has largely replaced Twitter as my daily social media tool. Some of my old Twitter network came across and we reconnected; I’ve also found a bunch of new interesting folks to follow. There are still a few people who haven’t made their way from Twitter to Mastodon who I really miss. Here’s hoping one of these days they also make the jump.

App Recommendation: Ivory

Finally, a practical suggestion if you’re an Apple user. For years I used an app called Tweetbot to browse Twitter. Tweetbot was one of the third-party apps that got summarily dispatched without notice a couple weeks ago when Elon pulled their plug. The developers of Tweetbot cranked up their efforts on a Mastodon app called Ivory, and it released today. I’ve been using it in beta for a few weeks now and it’s excellent. I happily subscribed at the highest level (don’t worry, dear, it’s only $25/year) as soon as I downloaded the released version today. Developers gotta eat, too, and for an app I use every day, 7 cents per day seems like a pittance. If you’re using an iPhone or an iPad and want to use Mastodon, I’d highly recommend it. (There are lower-priced subscription levels if that is a hindrance.)

Here’s to new platforms and new (and old!) friends. If you’re in the fediverse already, you can follow me at @cjhubbs@iowadon.org. You can follow my blog at @chris@chrishubbs.com, too! And if you’d just like to give Mastodon a try, you’re welcome to sign up for an account at iowadon.org!

New on ChrisHubbs.com: The Bookshelf

I’ve tracked my reading in one way or another here on this site and then using Goodreads since 2007 or so. At some point Goodreads got bought by Amazon and its functionality stagnated; I’m still logging books there but not interested in investing in it as my continued long-term logging. I was casting around for ideas on book logging back during the holidays and ran across some spiffy static site generator ideas, which lead me to rolling out The Bookshelf at books.chrishubbs.com today.

The vast bulk of the functionality driving The Bookshelf was written by Tobias (aka Rixx), who maintains his own book logging site at books.rixx.de. He provides the source on Github. It was designed to scrape Goodreads for data, assuming that the user would have Goodreads Developer API keys. Goodreads no longer issues new developer API keys (stagnating, remember?) so that path wasn’t available. I ended up writing some Python to parse the Goodreads export CSV file (which contained all of my reading logs since 2007) and process it into a whole structure of Markdown files with associated metadata. Those are then the master data that Rixx’s site generator tools use to generate static HTML.

I love the layout and organization of The Bookshelf. You can look at reading by year, by author, by title, and by series. You can also look at statistics on titles and pages read. There is “to be read” functionality that is a bit raggedy-looking yet; I have plans to add my existing to-read bookshelf (above my dresser in my bedroom!) to The Bookshelf as To Read, but I haven’t gotten that done yet.

If history serves, The Bookshelf will be the most actively updated part of my website. I haven’t done a great job over the years at writing short book reviews, but I think this site and the workflow to update it will encourage me to do that. I’m sure a decade from now it’ll be time for a change to something else, but as an organizer and cataloger, I’m excited to have 15 years worth of reading data here.

My 2022 Reading in Review

Another year full of books! (Previous summaries: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007… argh, how did I miss some of those years?)

I got through 61 books this year, which feels like a bit of a down year. My “one book at a time” practice got me bogged down in some slow theology books, and then I got sucked into a cross-stitch project and a couple web projects at the end of the year which stole some of my reading time. (I finally came to grips with breaking up the long theology slogs with some fiction, and that helps a lot.)

Here’s the full list of reading, with particular standouts noted in bold:

Theology

  • Heavy Burdens: Seven Ways LGBTQ Christians Experience Harm in the Church – Bridget Eileen Rivera
  • Happiness and Contemplation – Josef Pieper
  • The Aryan Jesus – Susannah Heschel
  • The Joy of Being Wrong – James Alison
  • Attached to God: A Practical Guide to Deeper Spiritual Experience – Krispin Mayfield
  • The Emergent Christ – Ilia Delio
  • The Beatitudes Through the Ages – Rebekah Ann Eklund
  • Let the Light In: Healing from Distorted Images of God – Colin McCartney
  • In: Incarnation and Inclusion, Abba and Lamb – Brad Jersak
  • Having the Mind of Christ – Matt Tebbe and Ben Sternke
  • The Dark Interval – John Dominic Crossan
  • Love Over Fear – Dan White, Jr.
  • Faith Victorious – Lennart Pinomaa
  • History and Eschatology – N. T. Wright
  • Destined for Joy – Alvin F. Kimel
  • A Thicker Jesus – Glen Harold Stassen
  • Changing Our Mind – David P. Gushee

Dr. Ilia Delio’s The Emergent Christ is the one that had me thinking the most this year, and that will stick with me longer than any of the others. Her approach to thinking about God, evolution, and universal progress within a Christian framework blew my mind, and consistently challenges me to think about God and the universe differently.

Other Non-Fiction

  • Maximum City – Suketu Mehta
  • Music is History – Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
  • The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson
  • How the Word Is Passed – Clint Smith
  • The New Abolition – Gary Dorrien
  • Reading Evangelicals – Daniel Silliman
  • Fearful Symmetry – A. Zee
  • The Joshua Generation – Rachel Havrelock
  • Belabored – Lyz Lenz
  • The Method – Isaac Butler
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls – John J. Collins
  • Strange Rites – Tara Isabella Burton
  • A Different Kind of Animal – Robert Boyd
  • The Dawn of Everything – David Graeber and David Wengrow
  • Bible Nation – Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden
  • Protestants Abroad – David A. Hollinger
  • Do I Make Myself Clear? – Harold Evans
  • White Flight – Kevin M. Kruse
  • How God Becomes Real – T. M. Luhrmann
  • Salty – Alissa Wilkinson
  • Blood In The Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks – Chris Herring
  • Searching for the Oldest Stars – Anna Frebel
  • This Here Flesh – Cole Arthur Riley
  • The Invention of Religion – Jan Assmann
  • The Phoenix Project – Gene Kim, George Spafford, and Kevin Behr
  • The Late Medieval English Church – G. W. Bernard
  • The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila – Carlos Eire
  • Strangers in Their Own Land – Arlie Russell Hochschild

Three women’s books stand out here: Tara Isabella Burton’s Strange Rites, looking at how the current generation of young people are looking for religious experiences in places other than traditional religion; Cole Arthur Riley’s spiritual memoir This Here Flesh, and Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, describing a sociologist’s quest to understand Louisianans who have been devastatingly impacted by environmental destruction and yet persistently support the businesses and political causes behind that destruction.

Fiction

  • Unthinkable – Brad Parks
  • Lent – Jo Walton
  • The Last Commandment – Scott Shepherd
  • When We Cease To Understand the World – Benjamin Labatut
  • Everything Sad Is Untrue – Daniel Nayeri
  • Once A Thief – Christopher Reich
  • A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik
  • The Blue Diamond – Leonard Goldberg
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built – Becky Chambers
  • The Coffin Dancer – Jeffery Deaver
  • Sea of Tranquility – Emily St. John Mandel
  • Small Things Like These – Claire Keegan
  • A Prayer for the Crown-Shy – Becky Chambers
  • A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers (re-read)
  • Slow Horses – Mick Herron
  • The Last Agent – Robert Dugoni

Here the standout was author Becky Chambers. Her little Monk & Robot novellas sucked me in and made me happy. That prompted me to purchase her Small Angry Planet series and start in on a re-read. Chambers works in the best tradition of science fiction pushing for inclusion and acceptance of The Other and in using the exploration of a very different universe to make you think about how our own could be improved.

Coming Up…

I’ve continued to log on Goodreads this past year but I get the feeling it’s spooling down as it gets absorbed by Amazon. I’m working on a self-hosted book logging site – it’s actually live online right now if you know where to look but I’m going to do some cleanup on it before I publicize it. I’ll post here about it when I do!