I had another epiphany today.

I’ve had Parallels Desktop on my Mac for years now, pretty much since I bought my first one for myself back in 2012. Originally it was so that I could continue to run some Windows applications, particularly games. Over the ensuing years I’ve oscillated between various versions of Windows, and also installed some macOS and Linux virtual machines.

But my need for Windows has diminished, and running macOS or Linux virtually was at most a curiosity rather than an actual need.

Lately, I’ve only fired up Parallels Desktop to update it plus my virtual machines.

So today I pulled the plug. I removed the three virtual machines, then uninstalled Parallels Desktop, and have made sure that my subscription won’t be renewed. It’s not a huge sum of money each year, but it’s money that is going to waste.

At some point in the future, I will also mothball my Steam and GOG accounts. I’ve realised that the likelihood of my (re)playing any of the games in my libraries is very remote now, so no point in letting them linger. Some of them would have difficulty running now anyway.

Rachel McAlpine:

If I were a vegetable I would hate to live in a potager garden. No chance of aging naturally there. I might look pretty but my life would be regimented—and short. Let me grow old in a vege garden like Richard’s. I don’t mind if you put me in a soup: that’s the purpose of my life. 

A potager is a vegetable garden designed to look pretty. Formality and uniformity dominate: form over function. I expect the Chateau de Villandry’s garden does produce food, but surely much is wasted. The moment a crop stops looking pretty, it must be ripped out. A potager garden in perfect condition is like a regimented school for young plants. Penalties for bad deportment and no place for seniors.

I think that some of this could be applied to our objects and the technology we use in our lives too.

Yes, Comments Are Still Relevant, But We Need a Better System

Justin Taplock, writing at WordPress Tavern:

More and more, open comments are becoming a thing of the past. Large news organizations have kicked them to the curb. Frustrated bloggers who no longer desire all of the hassles with moderation shut down their forms. The conversations have moved to corporate-controlled social media.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment much of the web devolved into chaos. It was probably more of a gradual thing. The tools that we built fostered the darkest side of humanity. Far too often, people let out their worst unfiltered thoughts without regard to decency and kindness. If we dig deep enough, social media is likely the culprit that spawned this growing experience. However, it is also entrenched in the blogging world.

Now, with the ubiquity of mobile phones, everyone has a voice. And, far too often, the vocal minority drives the masses from discussion to ad hominem. Or, maybe the majority was always looking for a justification.

There is a bright side. Commenting on and discussing ideas in an open forum can change hearts and minds. It can lead to discoveries and create life-long friendships – I still routinely chat with people I met through blogs and their comments from nearly two decades ago.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon myself. Big sites have made various excuses for either shutting down comments or shunting them to Facebook or Twitter — too much work required to moderate, quality of discussion, trollish behaviour, etc. Meanwhile, other blogging / publishing platforms, particularly static site generators, don’t even have commenting as a feature.

But I still find them useful, sometimes more informative than the article itself, or adding missing depth or nuance. Yes, the spam is a nuisance, but a manageable one.

Justin’s piece goes into some depth on how WordPress’s commenting system could be improved. All it requires is the will to act. I would love to see IndieWeb support built-in, and more features added that are current restricted to users of the Jetpack plugin.

We should also have some serious conversations about what tools publishers need to build thriving communities via their comments. For example, is comment moderation easy enough? If not, what can we do to improve it?

WordPress is more than simply a blogging platform. Users can build any kind of site they want today, with or without the comments. However, commenting is part of the software’s history and identity. It is a gateway to discussion – often as important or even more so than a site’s content.

Comments will always be relevant. Whether it is a response to a blog post, tweet, Slack thread, or some new thing we have yet to think of, the web is all about connecting and communicating with others. We should constantly reevaluate whether WordPress is leading the pack, creating the tools to enable more discussion.