Tom Dickinson's Internet Thing, July 2022 Edition
5 min read

Tom Dickinson's Internet Thing, July 2022 Edition

It's an email about email.
Once again I don't know what to put as the "featured image" so here is the robot from the film Castle in the Sky.
Once again I don't know what to put as the "featured image" so here is the robot from the film Castle in the Sky.

Hi!

In the last one of these, I promised to have a newsletter in your inbox every month or two. It's been three months, so I'm chalking this one up as "late, but not egregiously."

Wait, what is the deal with this newsletter again?

Okay, fair question. You're a busy person, you don't have time to memorize facts about newsletters and what the deal is with them. But on the other hand, I spent most of the April newsletter explaining what the deal is. So if you don't remember, maybe go read that one again?

Speaking of emails, did you know that emails can spy on you? Including this one?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the privacy implications of the ways we choose to communicate online. It occurs to me that if I'm going to be sending you a newsletter regularly, I owe you some transparency about what you're inadvertently sending back to me.

Almost every "mass email" you receive, whether it's from a huge corporation like Apple or a humble newsletterer like myself, tracks your behavior in some way. At the very least, it's standard for a mass email to track whether the recipient has opened it or not. If you want to know more about this, including how I am spying on you and how you can stop me, you can read this blog post I wrote about it recently:

Your Emails Are Spying on You, Including My Newsletter

I say I wrote it "recently", but honestly, it wasn't that recently. I wrote it back in May. But you probably only heard about it now, unless you subscribe to the blog via RSS, or are following me on Mastodon. Oh well. It's Evergreen Contentâ„¢ and you're hearing about it now.

Hey, what's that Mastodon thing you just mentioned?

Yeah, that is a good question. Here's the quickest explanation I know how to give. Mastodon is kind of like twitter, in that it's a microblogging site with many of the same features. But it's also very unlike Twitter, in that it's not controlled or operated by any one owner. It's decentralized, or to use the term a lot of Mastodon users prefer, "federated."

Actually, it's kind of like email. Remember email? From a couple paragraphs ago?

Nobody owns email: Google owns their email service, and Hotmail owns their email service, and lots of universities and corporations own their own respective email services. Heck, if you know how, you can start your own private email service and run it from a computer you own.

Those services are independent, but they aren't isolated. They all know how to send messages to one another, because they follow the same specification for how email is supposed to work. But none of them is in charge of that specification, so none of them can impose new features or policies on the whole system. If you don't like the way Twitter is doing things, you have to either just suck it up and deal with it, or quit the service. But email isn't like that. You can always switch to another provider and keep sending emails.

That's bascially how Mastodon is, too. It's made up of many independent instances that federate with one another. So one user might have an account on a server run by a donation-supported nonprofit, and another user might have have an account on a little server running in their neighbor's basement. And unless one of those servers has proactively blocked the other, the two accounts can follow, unfollow, reply, and DM, just like Twitter users can do.

I think this is a neat way to run things, which is part of why I like Mastodon. But also, I like it because I've found it to be a chill place to hang out and post on the Internet, something Twitter hasn't really been for me for over a decade now.

If you read all that explanation, that's cool. If you skimmed down to the end of this section, that's cool too. The upshot is, if you have an account on any Mastodon instance, you can follow me here:

labyrinth.social/@tom

labyrinth.social is actually a private Mastodon server that I run myself, with only a couple other active users. If you and I know each other and you'd like to join the server, please ask me! Or if you'd like to check out Mastodon but you're not sure you want to be on my private server, you can join a more general public one like mas.to. You can always move servers if you decide in the future that the one you joined isn't the best fit for you.

Hey, you know what else you've been up to lately? Twitch streaming.

Yes, I know! (Sometimes it's not easy to maintain the conceit where I frame the header of each section as though it were a question asked by a hypothetical reader.)

This weekend sees the release of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, a new game from a Japanese RPG series I adore. I've been thinking it might be fun to do a regular live stream as I play through the game, reacting to the twists and turns of its story and digging into its complicated game mechanics.

As a sort of dry run, to learn the ropes of streaming, I've been spending the past few Saturdays streaming one of the previous games from the Xenoblade series. I don't have a huge audience and I don't expect I ever will, but it's been fun to play through the game while chatting with whoever shows up to watch!

You can find my channel here:

twitch.tv/nowwearealltom

If you're interested in coming by and hanging out, please drop in! Even if you're not into the same kinds of JRPG nonsense I am, I'd be glad to have the company.

Here's my tentative streaming schedule for Xenoblade Chronicles 3:

  • Sun 07/31/2022, 12pm EDT: Kickoff Stream, starting XC3
  • Wednesdays, 7pm EDT: Story Stream, focusing on the game's main story when possible
  • Saturdays, 12pm EDT: XenoBrunch, avoiding main story progress and focusing on side quests, world exploration, and character customization, etc.

Depending on how things go, I might try other kinds of streams too? I have been thinking it might be fun to do a puzzle stream focusing on crossword or sudoku puzzles. So keep an eye on the channel for that!

What about podcasts? You still do podcasts, right?

I do!

One of my shows, Social Distance Warriors, features me and my friend Rat talking about life during the COVID-19 pandemic (and all of the other bizarre apocalypses which seem to be happening at the same time).

My other podcast, Doctor Who: The Moment is currently between seasons. But season four will be starting... soonish? I'd subscribe if I were you.

Hey, in last month's newsletter you asked people to reply with fun facts about their hometown. Did they?

Boy, did they ever! Like for instance, did you know that:

  • [redacted name]'s hometown of [redacted town] was the site of the test introduction of [redacted product]?
  • [redacted town] has a knife sharpening truck?
  • [redacted name] has only ever lived in one town?
  • While at the other extreme, [redacted name] wasn't sure what qualified as their hometown because they moved a lot as a kid and wrote me a long email listing fun facts from several different towns?

I bet you didn't know those things. And come to think of it, I suppose you still don't. But I know these things. And many other things besides. Thanks for sharing!

Okay, is the newsletter over now?

Basically, yeah!

I continue to be curious about who is reading this newsletter. So please reply once again, this time telling me about something silly that you believed as a kid. (If you're not reading this via email, send it to tom [at] nowwearealltom [dot] com).

I'll send the next newsletter in... oh, let's say, anywhere from two to eighteen months from now. Sound good?

Take care!

Tom