Malcolm Blaney: blog

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Hacking on the IndieWeb

By Malcolm Blaney on
Finally found some time recently to work on projects I started at IndieWeb Summit 2018 in Portland. I say projects (plural) because I did just keep starting stuff based on different talks or chats that were going on... possibly not the best way to develop new features!

But anyone doing a deep dive on the "IndieWeb Stack" is going to notice that there's a huge number of features or protocols they might want to add or support, so where to start? I think wherever inspiration or enthusiasm hits is probably a good idea, so for me that was adding IndieAuth support to win a copy of Aaron's book, OAuth 2.0 Simplified. I also hacked in support for Microsub to my website, because you know, when you're talking about protocols anyway you might as well try and support those protocols.

That brings me to hacking on the IndieWeb. I already had a bunch of code in place, because there are already external services for adding things like IndieAuth support. The cool thing about hacking on new features is that you can swap out one thing at a time. This means even though the list of things you might want to add to your website is quite daunting, you can do this piece by piece.

So I switched over to my home grown authorization endpoint during the summit, and even though it was pretty clunky, never switched back. Having your own endpoint means no more RelMeAuth lookups, so it saves a few seconds when logging in to other sites. But since I was nowhere near finished my projects after the summit, this meant I was still using Aaron's token endpoint. And it's great that this still just works! A few months have gone by and I've now added my own token endpoint to Dobrado, but I'm very thankful to Aaron for providing services to use while we find the time to write our own.

I've now also got better Microsub support, so if you've got an account on unicyclic.com you can log in to other readers like Monocle and see your feed there. Again it's not finished but it's nice to see progress as you complete smaller tasks (like h-app support):

monocle-login.png

I've also cleaned up my own reader interface. There's just too many other nice looking IndieWeb readers these days, so need to try and keep up with how good things are getting! ;-)

reader-screenshot-1.png

reader-screenshot-2.png
 
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A Programmable IndieWeb

By Malcolm Blaney on
It's been a long time since we've had any new writing from Aaron Swartz, but a draft of a book has been released that he had worked on, called A Programmable Web.

There's a fair bit of sadness and nostalgia in reading this work, as Aaron had a characteristic writing style that many of us still miss. However it's also a fascinating read, as he introduces concepts of working with the web, building one idea on top of the next.

It also feels a bit like a snapshot of the time when he was writing. I wonder if he would still favor the particular technologies and development styles he writes about? Regardless of his personal development choices, I still think he would have seen the IndieWeb as having the hacker spirit he identified with. In fact, I think this book paints an alternate vision for what we would like to see the IndieWeb achieve.

The final page of the draft reads, "the Semantic Web is based on a bet, a bet that giving the world tools to easily collaborate and communicate will lead to possibilities so wonderful we can scarcely even imagine them right now. Sure, it sounds a little bit crazy. But it paid off the last time they made that gamble: we ended up with a little thing called the World Wide Web. Let's see if they can do that again."

It's a beautiful picture, but I wish Aaron had written we, instead of they, here. He wasn't the sort of guy who waited for others to get things done when it was within his own abilities. The Programmable Web will be built, and the tools for collaboration are being built using the process of collaboration itself.
IndieWeb
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Fatigued.

By Malcolm Blaney on
This is a personal story about my journey and recovery from chronic fatigue. I feel like it's worth sharing in case someone searches the internet one day looking for help. If that's you, welcome!

I was diagnosed with glandular fever in October 2015. I was so tired I could barely get out of bed, so that ended up with a hospital visit and blood tests. The good news is that the blood tests will tell you if your body is currently fighting the glandular fever virus. (It can also tell you if you've had it in the past, but is no longer active.) The bad news is there's nothing they can do for glandular fever, and will quickly send you home to free up hospital resources.

I then waited patiently to recover from the virus. After a few weeks of no progress, you start thinking about how chronic fatigue is often triggered by something like glandular fever. In fact, there's a particular type of chronic fatigue called "post viral fatigue". After a month or two, you admit to yourself that your fatigue does in fact, appear to be chronic.

At this point, a few months in to 2016, I would get up in the mornings and try and follow a normal routine, but would end up asleep again for a few hours later. I might've done the same again in the afternoon. I also had severe neck pain but tried to avoid strong pain killers in the hope of getting some work done. The one positive I had during these months was I felt that I was getting better, little by little.

By the end of 2016 I was more functional but still hadn't got back to any regular exercise. In fact stairs were still a struggle. It was no where near a recovery and things were starting to plateau. It was pretty disappointing but by now I had spoken to enough people; doctors, friends who had suffered from chronic fatigue, that I knew no one had any answers. Those who had been through it said it just took time.

I also have Type 1 Diabetes. At the start of 2017 I read about some research that had cured type 1 diabetes in mice. I love reading these sorts of papers and read all I could. The initial story is here: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-39070183 and it links to this paper: https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(17)30130-7

If you read it you will notice what I did: it's possible to test this research on yourself. As a good net citizen I will now say, the researchers explicitly state you shouldn't do this. And you should always seek medical advice before drastically modifying your diet.

Luckily my partner is a nurse, so I had good supervision. If you haven't read the links above it basically says this: Fasting for 5 days in a row with minimal calorie intake will put your body into Ketosis. Ketosis is a fasting state where your body breaks down fat to provide itself with energy. The researchers believe that going back to your normal diet after being in Ketosis resets some complex systems within us that evolved during feast and famine situations. Their research specified doing this 5 day fast once a month for 3 months to really kick start whatever reset process was going on. The idea was that during this reset, your body was capable of creating new insulin producing cells.

So that's what I did in February, March and April 2017. Even though I still had pretty low energy levels from the chronic fatigue, I couldn't resist a chance at curing diabetes just by fasting! What I learned is that a 5 day fast makes you feel terrible, and knowing you have to do it again in a month doesn't help either. After the first 5 days I felt no changes, but after the second fast I curiously felt pretty good. By the end of the 3rd fast I hadn't noticed any changes in my diabetes, but my energy levels were back!

After this experiment I don't think I had any symptoms from chronic fatigue at all. I was quite happy to tell anyone that I had recovered thanks to the fasting. I felt great for pretty much the rest of 2017, and got back into regular exercise. Then at the start of 2018 I was very suddenly, totally floored. I ended up at the doctors because I couldn't work out what was wrong with me. As I sat there not getting any answers, I realized that they were my old fatigue symptoms back again. It had been so long since I felt them I couldn't remember how bad it had been!

I left the doctors knowing what to do, and started another set of 5 day fasts for the next 3 months. The same thing happened as the first time, by the second fast I could feel an improvement. By the end of the 3rd fast I was back to normal! It's now August, and I feel better than ever. How long will it last this time? I don't know, but I'm glad I found the research, even if it was totally unrelated to the illness that it worked for.
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