Sunday Reading: John Perry Barlow

John Perry Barlow: Is Cyberspace Still Anti-Sovereign?

Published by California Magazine in 2018:

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in April 2006. Last week, John Perry Barlow—poet, Internet philosopher and activist, known for an eclectic resume and zest for life— died in his sleep after a period of ill health. California is reposting this story in light of that news

Ten years ago, when hyperbole was the last word, John Perry Barlow’s A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace was compared by many to Thomas Paine’s The Crisis, which signalled the beginning of the American Revolution. Writing for Wired magazine, Barlow heralded the rise of the digerati. In turn he was trumpeted by them for delivering the seminal pronouncement of the emergent digital age and for declaring war on any institution that would try to control the Internet. His manifesto has since been widely distributed, widely quoted, and is linked to more than 20,000 Internet sites. As a consequence, he has been called “the Thomas Jefferson of Cyberspace.” A decade later, as Cyberspace and Real Space have merged, California magazine asked him to reexamine his manifesto, assessing where he was right, where he was sort of right, and where he was overblown. Is Cyberspace still anti-sovereign?

Well worth a read this Sunday. The description of how Barlow came to write his original 1996 declaration is particularly funny, while his description of politicians and those in old media who fund them is just as true today, sadly.

It makes me wonder what he would have written if he had been asked to reflect on the state of the web in 2016, a further decade on.

I’m currently down to 43 apps on my iPad, 73 (excluding built-in) apps on my Mac. Over the last year or so, I’ve gradually pruned away all the things that aren’t used or useful. Now I’m putting effort into getting the most value out of what remains.

Using DEVONthink as a Bookmark Manager

For several years now, I’ve been using Pinboard to collect and manage bookmarks, and it has worked very well for me. However, while Pinboard itself is great, the various third-party apps I’ve used with it have been merely okay at best.

But since the big upgrade to both DEVONthink for the Mac and DEVONthink To Go for iPad and iPhone, which I mentioned recently, I’ve started re-evaluating my systems.

This morning, I successfully imported all my Pinboard bookmarks into DEVONthink using this AppleScript plus some editing, thanks to this thread over on the DEVONtechnologies Community Forums. All the tags were retained, which will really help with organisation, something that DEVONthink excels at.

My Pinboard subscription isn’t due to expire until next year. While I’ve used some of the social features in the past, such as the Network and Popular feeds, those aren’t necessarily dependent on my having a Pinboard account. If I were still a Twitter user, that might sway me to keep using Pinboard, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

Meanwhile, DEVONthink has the ability to produce a clutter-free WebArchive (or Markdown) version of web pages, so I can save the content of articles then highlight parts that I may want to write about or do further research on. Pinboard can do page archival as well, but that is an optional (and paid) extra.

So I think it’s fair to say that I’m sold now on using DEVONthink as a bookmark manager. My data can be accessed offline, for starters, and searching is much faster. But the best part is that I can use its AI classification system to find related items, again without the need for internet access or sending my data to someone else’s servers. Heady stuff!

Putting Things in Perspective

Causes of Death in America (Reality/Google/Media) – graph courtesy of Our World In Data

Found this via Brandon, who notes:

I ran across this infographic back in December and found it interesting. It’s a breakdown of what Americans die from, what Americans search on Google, and what the news reports on. You can quickly see how America’s biggest killer heart disease, is not exciting and thus gets little to no coverage in the media nor do Americans feel compelled to research it. The flashy, exciting, and scary stuff like homicide and terrorism get a lot more love, especially from the media.

I would expect that the figures are similar for the UK.

Link to the source (whenever possible)

Colin Devroe recently posted about how he prioritised sources for links to various things.

My policy is a lot simpler. Whenever possible, I’ll link to an authoritative source. In other words, pretty much the first column of Colin’s table. The only exception would be for artwork, since a lot of artists have their primary location on an art-based social network such as DeviantArt or ArtStation.

When it comes to sources I won’t link to, however…

Social media is a hard no — I don’t want to inflict that on anyone.

Sites that have paywalls or limit your ability to read articles (I’m looking at you, Medium) are also on the don’t-link list, as are click-bait or hot-take sites.

If need be, I’ll find (or generate, if I can) an Internet Archive copy and link to that.

(Reminder to self: I should go through and start doing that for links in older posts that violate these rules.)

DEVONthink + iA Writer = 😍

I’ve tested the ability to edit journal entries in DEVONthink using iA Writer on both Mac and iPad.

On the Mac, it’s just a case of File > Open With... then select iA Writer. Editing in iA Writer then saving updates the file in DEVONthink. There’s a small niggle where iA Writer displays a warning that it’s editing a file outside of its list of locations — I’ve got rid if the warning by adding the Databases folder in my home folder to the list of iA Writer locations.

On the iPad, using DEVONthink To Go, the process requires some setup first. In iA Writer, I needed to add DEVONthink as a file location, and the Personal Journal specifically. Once that is done, I can open files from there in iA Writer and edit them, and the changes are synched back to DEVONthink To Go.

I’m pretty pleased with how well this worked. 🙂

A retrospective look at Mac OS X Snow Leopard

Riccardo Mori:

My recent article, The reshaped Mac experience, received a lot of attention judging from the response on Twitter and the WordPress analytics — apparently, among other places, it reached Hacker News and Reddit. Unlike my four-part series ‌Mac OS Catalina: more trouble than it’s worth, however, it didn’t attract any hate mail at all. The sheer majority of feedback I received was very positive, with many many people agreeing with me and my observations. A few — some provocatively, some genuinely curious — asked me something along the lines of, Well, if you dislike the current Big Sur UI and Mac experience, what’s an example of Mac OS UI and experience you DO like?

It’s a more than fair question, and this piece serves as an answer. When I wrote back to those who asked me, I replied Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. It was sort of a gut-reply based largely on fond memories of using that Mac OS version quite extensively.


But back to my ‘gut-reply’, I wanted to be certain that my fond memories of Snow Leopard weren’t just nostalgia. While I am confident when I say that Snow Leopard is the most stable version of Mac OS, I wanted to make sure its user interface was really the good user interface and experience I was remembering. So, after a few frustrating attempts at creating a virtual machine on my current iMac with Mac OS High Sierra, I decided to install Snow Leopard on a USB flash drive, and boot my 2009 MacBook Pro (yes, it’s still alive & kicking) in Snow Leopard from that flash drive.

Go read the blog to see all the screenshots, and comparisons with the same features in Big Sur.

My first exposure to Mac OS X was with 10.3 Panther and 10.4 Tiger on the PowerMac G4 and G5 towers I used for artwork preparation and CD/DVD authoring. My first personal iMac came with 10.7 Lion, looking mostly like Snow Leopard but minus the ability to run PowerPC apps.

I really miss the Aqua interface, and user interfaces with texture and depth. 🙁