Link: the printed book as a preservation device

My 2008 article about digital deterioration of e-books has, in a fit of irony, become unfindable through Google. The reason may be that no-one links to it any more, including the platform on which it was published.

So let me link to it myself:

The printed book as a preservation device

In the article I discuss three dangers that beset digital works:

  1. Format deterioration
  2. Digital Rights Management (DRM)
  3. An adversive position of archivists

I offer no achievable solutions to these problems, but point out that, ironically, because of these dangers a print version of a book offers a greater chance of said book surviving the ages than the digital version does.

Review of, a Dutch online market place for (finding) freelancers


Use Google to find your freelancers instead.

Jellow is a platform that connects freelancers with their clients.

Clients post a description of the work they need done, then Jellow looks in its database for matching freelancers and asks them to pitch.

When I first checked out Jellow, the thing that stood out is that they seemed to treat freelancers as first class citizens. That in itself was remarkable, because none of the other main freelance marketplaces in the Netherlands for professionals of my kind (web developers) do.

Neither Hoofdkraan nor are particularly freelancer-friendly. seems to mostly want to keep recruiters happy and Hoofdkraan is quite pricey for the bargain basement contracts it delivers.

So I registered with and decided to keep an eye on the platform for a year to see how things were going.

Here is what I found so far.

My first impressions were positive. Jellow works by building a large and intricate profile of the freelancer and then letting software match those profiles to contracts.

Jellow also stresses the importance of having a complete profile, and if you have a rich Linkedin profile, Jellow will try and import that and use it to enrich the freelancer’s Jellow profile.

The website’s interface is clear.

Jellow actively encourages you from time to update your profile. I realise this is all automated, but it still signals intent: Jellow is not interested in stale profiles.

Over the past year I have been invited to respond to five or so contracts, which is not a bad number.

This, though, is where my overall positive opinion of Jellow started turning sour. The contracts were generally poorly defined. It appeared that clients (who unlike those on, where the freelancer pays, are the paying parties) were not spending a lot of time assessing and then describing their own needs.

Once I had read the contract, I generally still did not know what it was about.

Later, Jellow implemented a feature (which even later still seemed to have been removed) that showed how many freelancers were invited to respond to a contract and this showed where the real problem lay. Often I was one of 80 or 90 freelancers who had been invited to respond to a contract, meaning that there would be no meaningful way to pitch. I would just be one of dozens trying to guess the client’s needs and if I was lucky, I would guess right.

Like, Jellow used the buckshot method to try and bring freelancers and clients together. If the freelancer and the client decided to build something together, it would have to be entirely after the online marketplace brought them together.

Which raises the question: why use a marketplace at all? Freelancers can be found on Google, on Twitter, in Facebook groups, in professional Slacks (pro-tip: DrupalNL for finding Drupal specialists), through business relations and so on.

One of the first things I noticed, because I looked for it, were the negative Google reviews Jellow was getting from clients. It appears that charging 500 Euro for one search combined with not vetting the freelancers does not a happy customer make.

Business found themselves quickly burning through money by finding fraudulent freelancers through Jellow and the platform charging them for the privilege.

To me, however, this signaled that for once a platform was treating freelancers better than clients, and I had not experienced such a thing before, so that made me mildly optimistic.

But as one reviewer said (and I paraphrase): save yourself a lot of money by Googling for your freelancer.

So… I don’t know what Jellow is trying to achieve and maybe it will get better in the long run, but for now I will have to give it a 2 out of 5 for effort.

Rating by brankl: 2.0 stars

[Screenshot showing two negative Google reviews of]

State of the CMS in 2022

Every four years since 2010 I have been writing the ‘state of the CMS’ in which I compare how the major Free and Open Source (FOSS) content-management systems (CMSes) call themselves.

Today’s version will likely be the last of the series.

This is because in the past 12 years the main contenders for the title ‘popular CMS’ were all basically offering the same thing, namely an open source, LAMP-based generic CMS. That made them a natural category. Now that other types of CMS have started to compete in the top ten, it has become much harder to define a category to which these systems belong.

Wordpress is still by far the biggest fish in the pond, but in the past 4 years hosted CMS-es have grown in importance and have grown bigger than what were for a good 10 years Wordpress’ only rivals, Drupal and Joomla. In fact, according to W3Techs (which I won’t link to, because their chart changes weekly or so), the three most popular CMS-es after Wordpress are now Shopify, Wix and Squarespace. And where four years ago Drupal and Joomla were the only CMS-es after Wordpress that had a better than 1% market share — my personal measure of significance here — now between 6 to 10 do, depending on who you ask and how you calculate market share.

It seems, in other words, that the very definition of what a CMS is, is shifting, and that makes it less meaningful to continue this series.

How have these systems called themselves over time and can we glean anything useful from any changes?

2010: Semantic personal publishing platform
2014: Web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog
2018: Open source software you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app
2022: Open source software you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app

2010: Open source content management system
2014: Open source content management platform
2018: Open source content management system
2022: Digital experience platform (DXP)

2010: Dynamic portal engine and content management system
2014: Content management system
2018: Content management system
2022: Content management system

2022: [undefined]

2022: [undefined]

I have tried to figure out what Wix and Squarespace call themselves, but being commercial entities they are not really calling themselves anything. Instead they present themselves as a bunch of solutions to any number of problems you might have and leave it to the historians to provide them with a label. So Wix opens with “Create a website you’re proud of” and Squarespace with “Everything to sell anything”.

See also: State of the CMS in 2018.

Oh, how Microsoft Windows 10 blew

This was a list I made of many of the problems I encountered using the Microsoft operating system Windows 10.

I cannot remember why I started making such a list, but it is a habit. Maybe because other voices have much greater platforms and maintaining these lists protects me a little from the gaslighting.

I built my current PC in 2016 and started maintaining this list shortly after. Since then, Windows 10 has changed a bunch and as a result, this is more of a hodgepodge historical overview than a completely up-to-date compendium of all Windows’ woes.

The main change since the release of Windows 10 was that Microsoft started thinking of it as a service, rather than a product.

There may be a (strategic) legal reason for this: consumer protection laws are typically a lot stronger with regards to products rather than services.

Anyway, Windows 10 sucked, and here is why:

* Tries to let you sign up to a huge number of gross privacy violations upon installation.

* You cannot block it from restarting whenever it damn feels like. (It will let you enter a period of 12 hours in which it will presumably not restart.)

* When you have speedy start turned on, it will forget it’s network settings after a while.

* It forgets application settings (this may have to do with the previous points).

* Apparently from time to time it will reset all file associations to crappy Microsoft software. (I haven’t come across this yet, but while searching for solutions to other crap Microsoft pulls, I came across this one to look forward to.)

* Like most Windowses before it, Windows 10 also hides file extensions by default to make it easier for distributors of viruses and backdoors to let you install their malware.

* Creates a Thumbs.db file whenever you store an image in a directory, regardless whether you want to see thumbs or not. This file cannot be deleted. Some archivers balk when you try and create a ZIP file of such a directory.

* Reinstalls unwanted bundled software.

There was probably a bunch more, but at some point you no longer notice them.

Whither netbook?

Lately I have been using my 2008 Asus EEE netbook quite a bit and when I noticed this, I decided to look for an upgrade.

I knew that netbooks had been largely supplanted, first by tablets and later by Chromebooks, but what I had not realised is that they have disappeared completely from the market together with their ultraportable brethern.

So what is a netbook? It is a small and lightweight and cheap generic laptop, that is all. They were introduced in the mid-noughties and were then pulled off the market almost as quickly when manufacturers realised how thin the margins on these machines exactly were.

Netbooks sold for as little as 200 euro. Before netbooks were introduced you could already get ultraportable laptops in the 2000 euro price range. There was apparently a market for a laptop of that form factor even at a price ten times that of a netbook.

And I have to say, if I look at how I used my netbook in the past and how I use it now, the size and the weight keep playing a role:

  • Watching shows copied off my main PC, while in bed, with the netbook resting on my chest.
  • Blogging (including editing photos) while on the road.
  • Taking notes from meetings and brainstorms.
  • Homework for a creative writing course.
  • Doing post-processing for Distributed Proofreaders, i.e. creating e-books.
  • Listening to online radio.

(Compare with how I use my tablet.)

I guess a lot of people use smartphones for these things now. I am one of the remaining 5 people on the planet who is not a smartphone person, I realise that makes our group too small to form a market.

Retrospectives on netbooks are typically a hoot-and-a-half, with the authors clickbaitely mocking the devices and claiming nobody ever used them, after which the comments sections come alive with people who loved their netbooks and used them for all kinds of cool things.

The form factor of the netbook was important. Unlike devices like tablets, where large-format devices have carved out their own niche among for example graphic artists, a medium- to large-format netbook makes no sense. That would be the same thing as a laptop but underpowered.

My netbook has a 10 inch screen diagonal which is already on the large side.

Illustration: book sizes to compare to laptop sizes: the left-most book is pocket-sized and fits in a coat pocket. The middle book is the size of my 10-inch Asus EEE netbook and fits in a small backpack or bag. The book on the right is about the size of an 11- or 12-inch laptop and already needs something more substantial to be carried around in.

After I figured out I won’t be able to buy a modern netbook, I have looked into the possibility of upgrading the current one but that is going to require a bunch more thought. Even if I could buy 2012 era tech to replace some of the 2008 era stuff, there is no guarantee everything will work together nicely, and, more importantly, I am not sure I even need the upgrade. More storage would be nice but that is all I currently ‘need’.

DIY plywood book cradle (redux)

In the 2000s I was a volunteer for Distributed Proofreaders, an organisation that produces e-books for Project Gutenberg using a process that breaks up the work in manageable steps.

At the time I was looking into ways of creating a mobile scanning station that I could use to travel to libraries and rare book collections so that I could scan their books on location.

My idea was to create a so-called planetary scanner because in my experience it can be quite easy to damage books on a regular flatbed scanner – typically laying books open on a glass plate is bad for the spine, and when you turn over the book so that you can turn the page, you can easily rip a page.

Most of the parts of a planetary scanner can be bought off the shelf: tripods, cameras, glass plates, lights and so on. I could not find a book cradle however (little did I know that the ones for display purposes are called ‘book stands’) so I set out to make one myself.

Initially I made a cradle out of cardboard. That one functioned just fine, however after scanning a single book the cardboard walls had weakened to the point that they no longer could support a book.

So I made a second book cradle out of thin, soft plywood, and that is the one you can see here.

For the design, see this PDF.

I added a few components, namely a glass plate from a 3-euro picture frame and a printed reference sheet.

The glass plate is for keeping pages more or less flat.

If you keep the rest of the frame’s components, it will help you keep the glass plate undamaged during transport.

The reference sheet is just a print-out of a grid of squares and will help fix a few things beforehand or in post-processing: lens distortion (the lines should be straight), perspective (the squares should all be the same size), and white balance (the sheet should be white).

You might want to try and make the squares an exact size (for example 10 mm), but I never bothered with that, because getting it right is also a function of the printer you use. If you need to know the size of the book cover or the book’s pages, it is probably easier and faster to measure them by hand anyway.

I made the joints quite tight. Since I used fairly soft plywood this makes the cradle quite firm.

At this size, the cradle supports small and medium sized books. If you want to scan larger books, you have to get creative. (For example, you could make something that pushes the wooden sheets outwards.)

Once you are done scanning your book, everything combines into a strong and neat package that can easily be carried in for example a laptop bag.

I won’t go into the actual scanning process, because that could easily take up 3 or 4 more blogposts, but I have some notes from back in the day here.

As you can see (green dashed line added for emphasis), the glass plate can have quite a strong reflection. The angle of the light and the camera will play a role here.

Other people have made DIY book scanners with accompanying cradles, such as Daniel Reetz.

My Russo-Ukrainian War playlist

This is the propaganda I watch and listen to on Youtube.

Content warning: all of these channels discuss and often show extreme forms of violence. Not just because they discuss war, but also because almost all Russians are terrorists and criminals or supporters of terrorists and criminals, and because Russia wants to genocide Ukraine into the history books, and the results are particularly ugly.

Pro-Ukrainian propaganda

Tactics and strategy

Perun Gamer turned commentator. Clearly has some sort of academic past and some sort of public speaking past, but he doesn’t want to reveal too much about himself. You will have to judge him strictly on the content.

Anders Puck Nielsen Former officer aboard a Danish patrol boat, he returned to his old school to become a lecturer there. Posts every 10 days or so.

Österreiches bundesheer (in English: Austrian army) Every week or so, among their regular content, a lieutenant-colonel explains how the war is progressing. (Update 2-6-2022: ab heute auch auf englisch.)

Ukrainian voices

UATV English Daily war news, often quoting regional managers.

Operator Starsky A PR officer of a National Guard brigade attached to Kyiv presents all kinds of mostly background information, mostly about the hostilities around Kyiv. He is also popular on English-language Youtube-talkshows.

I stand with Ukraine – Nataliya’s channel Miscellaneous, but I mostly watch this channel for the translations of interviews with Russian prisoners of war by Volodymyr Zolkin. (Update 9 June 2022 – the translated interviews are no longer available, because the original interviewer started monetizing them.)

Insights from Ukraine and Russia Once per day, sometimes once per two days, this channel presents two short translations of intercepted phone calls of Russian soldiers.

Ukraine Leaks Battle videos from body cams and drone cams.

Olga Reznikova A Ukrainian vlogger who got overtaken by the war, fled the country (taking her kids and her parents along), and returned last week.

Armchair generals

The Enforcer Daily live show (long) and daily review of the clips you saw at UATV and Ukraine Leaks.

Animarchy Long-form essays, mostly about the weapons- and soldiers-side of war.

Pro-Russian propaganda

Niki Proshin How the war affects Russia.

1420 Russian vox pops. I am going to quote a little dialog I particularly liked:

Interviewer: “Which mythical creature do you like best?”

Young man: “Centaurs.”

Interviewer: “Don’t you like orcs?”

Young man: “No, I hate them.”

Interviewer: “Why?”

Young man: “They rape and kill and loot washing machines.”

(Explanation: Ukrainians call Russians ‘orcs’. Russian soldiers loot a lot. There have been cases where Ukrainians retrieved stolen washing machines from Russian trenches.)

Pro-American propaganda

Times Radio.



What is true?

Propaganda does not necessarily mean lying, it may simply mean choosing to highlight what one side finds important – and in fact that is how I have interpreted the term when categorising the Youtube channels above. This is why, for example, I added certain Russian vloggers to the pro-Russian side, even though they appear to be no great fans of the war.

Still, lying is a valid tactic in a war and therefore I assume that most of the time I do not really know what is going on.

I use some heuristics though to determine for myself what I believe is the truth (until proven otherwise):

– Time. I find that after weeks or months, belligerents find it easier to admit that something was the case.

– ‘Innocent’ sources. Russian newspapers for instance will publish biographies of fallen local soldiers. The sum of these biographies tend to be wildly at odds with official mortality figures.

– Comparison. If both sides say X, I tend to believe X is true. This is a tricky one, because each side may have their own reasons to spread the same falsehood. For that reason, I try not to use this heuristic.

– A history of speaking the truth.

In my experience Ukrainians hold back information (they tend to go: “we cannot really determine these things until after the war”), whereas Russians outright lie. I assume the Russians do not believe that we don’t realise they are lying – rather I assume they are trying to sow confusion.

As a result, I tend to believe the Ukrainians. I realise this is also a form of laziness, but so far it has not tripped me up.

Wordpress and Drupal jargon compared

I made the following comparison of Wordpress and Drupal terminology for a customer and figured others might find it useful too.

Important: undoubtedly the very existence of this table will create the impression that Wordpress and Drupal are much alike. This is obviously true in some aspects – both are open source CMS-es based on a XAMPP stack for instance – but the underlying philosophies of both systems can vary wildly.

I will try and give a few examples after the jargon comparison.

Wordpress Drupal
Plugin Module
Theme Theme
Sidebar Region
Widget Block
Menu Menu
Dashboard Dashboard
Post Article
Page Page
post type
User User
Template* Template
Hook** Hook
Action** Hook
Filter*** Hook
Filter Filter
n/a Render
n/a Form
Shortcode Token****
n/a Entity
n/a Bundle
Blocks n/a
Options Variables
(D7), Config (D8+)
wpquery View

* Drupal’s templates are more powerful than Wordpress’. Drupal makes almost everything themable, meaning you can make a template for almost everything. This has advantages for child-themes (you only have to define template parts, which are just called templates; Drupal will figure out which one to load) and for modules, which can define templates for their own output, which in turn can be overwritten by themes. Instead of templates you can also use theming hooks.

** ‘Hook’ is programming terminology. Wordpress sub-divides its hooks into actions and filters. Drupal lets you define hooks by prefixing function names with the name of your custom theme or module. E.g. theming hooks are called THEME_preprocess_HOOK and THEME_process_HOOK, where THEME is the machine name of your theme and HOOK is the part of the page you want to alter, e.g. ‘page’, ‘block’, ‘section’ and so on.

*** Drupal’s filters are typically only used to change text before it is being output to the browser. In Drupal 7 and earlier filters were defined using hooks, in later versions using ‘plugins’ (not the Wordpress kind, obviously).

**** Tokens require a third-party module.


Where Wordpress is a CMS, Drupal has historically been more of a CMS construction kit – simply installing Drupal was never enough to run a website. Wordpress on the other hand has its famous 5-minute install: you can literally be up-and-running in that litle time – assuming you do not want anything complicated.

Wordpress has a rich ecosystem of large, monolithic plug-ins (often with paid expansions typically called the Pro version) which give you everything but the kitchen sink for any given functionality.

Drupal on the other hand typically has leaner modules that tend to cooperate well with other modules – meaning you can build functionality from combining modules. Since Drupal sites are typically built by professional coders, this way of glueing together small modules works well for the system.

Drupal even has modules that were specifically made to provide an API – although I am not entirely comfortable with the comparison. Wordpress provides such a large ecosystem, that the combination of Wordpress and a popular plugin can be considered a CMS in its own right.

For example if you considered the Wordpress + Elementor combination to be a CMS of its own, it would be more popular than Drupal. The result is that these popular plugins become their own API’s, even if they are very ugly API’s that can be difficult to develop against.

The existence of the table above suggests that the jargon I have compared is closely related, but the different philosophies underlying both systems permeate through each concept. As a result, finding the right terminology tends to be little more than a starting point.

Blogging is dead and alive!

Blogging is dead, apparently. But blogging is also alive.

Both statements can be true at the same time without it being some weird sort of Schrödinger’s Cat situation.

Blogging as a social activity, as the thing that the cool kids did to hang out together, seems to be mostly dead. I know a few people who maintain their blogs as a way to stay in touch with their fan base — they could have switched to a forum or a Discord, and some have (Jeff Minter seems to want to maintain all three), but why switch to the next fashionable technology when the previous one still works?

But blogging these days is also very much alive, because blogging allows you to write in a manner that the search engines for some reason automatically label ‘organic’. Your posts need to be linked in order for the machines to consider them ‘high quality’, but other than that, you are good to go.

As a result, and as an exercise in search engine optimisation, corporate websites are the place where you find a lot of actively maintained blogs.

Facebook is a bad application

Facebook has been having a lot of bad press lately, so much so that I have started to wonder if they are not feeding some of it to the media themselves, just to draw the attention away from all the other bad press. (Nah, just kidding.)

The big one, however, at least (presumably) to Facebook themselves, is the stock price, which has been having a bit of a tumble after the news broke that for the first time in ages Facebook has been losing users instead of gaining them.

Facebook stock has gone down in the past as well, notably 2 and 4 years ago — so this may just be part of some weird 2-year cycle the company has found itself in — but never as steep as this time, when it went from a share price of approximately 330 USD in January to 210 USD this week.

That Facebook has been losing users (while at the same time gaining them elsewhere) is not news to me. My newsfeed has been getting increasingly quiet the past few years. Sometimes ‘friends’ just have stopped posting, sometimes their frequency has dropped considerably. Also only a few of the younger-than-40-year-olds in my friends list post any more.

As you can see the number of users is not a very good metric anyway, because Facebook probably counts that as people with an account and not necessarily as people who are (very) active.

For a company with a flagship in decline you would think that this is the time they would improve the Facebook experience, would you not? I mean, they obviously should not stop trying to develop new products just to recapture some of that waning interest, but unless they are purposely trying to shed old people, they should not actively work on making the current experience worse.

So over the past 2 years I have been keeping tabs on the ways my personal experience with Facebook has been getting worse. The list is shorter than it should be because I did not always remember to make a note every time I ran into a problem.

  • I now get regular friend requests from porn stars (i.e. entrepreneurs shilling their wares) and scammers that I do not personally know.
  • I get regular message requests from scammers.
  • The entire process of getting rid of unwanted message requests is riddled back to front with dark patterns specifically designed to make it difficult to do so. Presumably this is to drive ‘engagement’, i.e. Facebook would prefer you to become friends with scammers, because the more connections, the better. Right?
  • Red dots that indicate you are missing something important are rarely truthful; on the Pages tab, they mean “Facebook wants you to start worrying about page views” (because Facebook wants you to start buying page views). On the videos tab it is to recommend irrelevant (i.e. unengaging) videos from strangers.
  • It is obvious that Facebook sees pages as a ‘business thing’, but that wasn’t so obvious ten years ago when they started clamping down on the way Groups could be used and drove users to Pages on purpose. So it is a bit weird how since then they have sneakily started turning Pages into something else.
  • When you visit a group, these same red dots cast a shadow. Posts are ordered such that the first one is “From notifications”. This is not the setting I want, nor the setting I need, but more importantly: it is not a setting. I cannot flip a switch so that groups are always listed chronologically.
  • Regular glitches in page refreshes or simply refusals to properly update the time line, i.e. straight up bugs. All software is buggy, but pre-2020 versions of Facebook weren’t this problematic.
  • Ads for Facebook Groups that are really commercial products (presumably scams such as pyramid games and the like) can be reported as spam and hidden, except that they won’t get hidden.

There are a few things about Facebook that are good and that may even have gotten better, explicitly groups and events. In case you don’t know what these are, groups are a way to talk with strangers about a shared interest, i.e. forums but on Facebook.

Events are real-life events of which the information is maintained on Facebook. You can talk about events on the page of each event, and these pages tend to have information like time, location, pricing, a map and a list of participants. So basically like but with actual users.

Disclosure: I use the Firefox plugin FB Purity, which helps me fix some of the worst problems with Facebook, but which in doing so might also break the site in subtler ways. I think this is still a fair report as Facebook forces you to use FB Purity.