New project: Shtory

Nothing’s funnier than a joke about something people have long since stopped talking about. Introducing shtory: stories, for the Unix shell. You’re welcome, and I’m sorry.

First Snapchat introduced its “stories” feature as a broadcast alternative to its original model of sending self-destructing snaps directly to individual users; then Facebook was rebuffed in trying to buy Snapchat and Mark Zuckerberg directed Instagram to reproduce an identical “stories” feature in Instagram, prompting all kinds of jokes about what software would have “stories” next.

from Know Your Meme, a photoshopped image of Microsoft Excel with "stories" — a row of usernames and icons between the toolbars and the spreadsheet proper, just like in Snapchat and Instagram.
Excel, perhaps

Then in 2020, Twitter announced its — also identical — feature, this time called “Fleets” (see, like “tweets”, but they’re “fleeting”), and there was a whole new round of jokes.

In particular, Jef Poskanzer tweeted:

Tweet from Jef Poskanzer (@jefposk), November 18, 2020, reading “/bin/sh has stories now too.”, with an attached image of a shell prompt under a row of ASCII-art faces

And I thought, “heh. that’s pretty funny.”

And then I thought, “you know, I bet I could actually write a program to do that.”

And then I thought, “that’s a terrible idea.”

So, obviously I’m doing it. Introducing my new project: shtory — Snapchat/Instagram/Twitter-style stories, for the Unix shell. You’re welcome, and I’m sorry.

Everyone knows nothing’s funnier than a joke about something people have long since stopped talking about, so in keeping with that principle I hope to have an alpha of shtory ready to put up on github by about the end of the month. Ultimately the concept here isn’t very dissimilar to the traditional Unix utility finger, which displays the .plan and .project files, if any, that a user has in their home directory; but individual poshts in a shtory will, like their social media inspirations, only live for 24 hours before being automatically deleted, and I plan on implementing more granular privacy controls of the type we’re used to in modern social media, like follow lists, blocking, locked accounts, mutual-only posts, etc.

Happy New Year

Well, it’s 2021. 2020 was pretty bad! it’s gonna take a lot of work to make 2021 good, but maybe we’ll all manage it together.

One positive change I’m making is that I’ve quit Twitter. I don’t currently plan to delete my account — it’s useful to have posts here automatically linked over there, and there are a lot of people there I’d hate to lose touch with, so if the account stays accessible they can at least find out why I’m not tweeting anymore — but a couple of weeks ago Twitter notified me that it was my tenth anniversary on the site and asked if I wouldn’t like to make a commemorative tweet with a special “10” graphic they’d prepared, and I thought, well, ten years is definitely too long to be here.

I have more thoughts about the ways in which “social media” as it currently exists, and Twitter in particular (I quit Facebook about ten years ago, so I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of its current state), is bad for us as individual people and as a society, and why, and what might be better; and maybe at some point I’ll organize those into a post here. I want to work on, and write about, more software projects first, though, so look for more on that soon.

Anyway although time is largely fake, there’s something nice about choosing to mark the new year a few weeks after the solstice — it’s about when we start to actually notice that the days are getting longer. It’s been a few months of it getting darker and colder, and it will stay cold, and even get a little colder yet, for another couple, but we can see it’s starting to get a little lighter, and we know it’ll get warm again, we just have to get through the hard depths of winter.

A metaphor, if you like. Happy new year, wear a mask, don’t go to restaurants or weddings or bars or generally spend time indoors with or near people you don’t live with, get the COVID vaccine as soon as you can, don’t vote for Republicans, tip servers and delivery people extra, do what you can to help other people.