612: Matt Haughey on a Fantasy Blogging CMS Setup

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Matt is here to talk about creating the perfect fantasy CMS for blogging, moderating comments at Metafilter, building sane defaults into programs, how difficult the web is, do we want AI in our CMS, and where is content headed on the internet?



Matthew Haughey

Web · Social

A writer with over 25 years of experience building products. In that time I've worked as a designer, coder, company founder, and senior writer.

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MANTRA: Just Build Websites!

Dave Rupert: Hey there, Shop-o-maniacs. You're listening to another episode of the ShopTalk Show. I'm Dave--in the shed--Rupert. With me is Chris--in the office--Coyier. Hey, Chris. How are you doing today?

Chris Coyier: I'm doing wonderfully. Thanks, Dave. We have a guest on because we're going to end up probably talking about CMSs a bunch. Not that any of us are super experts or anything, but we all use different CMSs, have various long histories with CMSs, and I just think it's fun to talk about, especially from a theoretical perspective of, like, "What if my CMS did this?! Wouldn't that be nice?!"

On to talk about it is first-time guest Matt Haughey. Hey, Matt! How ya doin'?

Matt Haughey: Good. I'm glad to be here. Thanks.

Chris: Yeah. Really... an honor, really. I've just been reading your stuff forever, maybe, since I came online. You're kind of an old-school Web guy. Maybe got us beat by a little bit.

Sometimes I think we're old guard, but I wasn't building websites in '95 quite yet, and that was kind of your intro to it. But if people were around awhile, you'd be forgiven for thinking of Matt as kind of... You're kind of like the Metafilter guy, right? Do you still carry that?

Matt: Yeah, I was.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: For a long time, and you literally built that sucker. So, in a way, you've hand-built CMSs.


Matt: My worst accolade is kind of helped invent Web Log Comments. [Laughter] That's not something to be proud of. But I don't know. I made some decisions and did the best I could.

Chris: Yeah. What does that mean? You mean just kind of commenting in general, or do you mean something specific?

Matt: Yeah. I think there was only one blog that even had comment capability in 1998. It was a small IT guy in the Bay Area that I knew.

I saw that, and I saw Slashdot, and I was like, "Eh!" I didn't like the UI of Slashdot, and it was too much. It had too many options.

I was like, "How would I make this clean? Where should I put the names? I don't want people to pre-judge," because on Slashdot your name was at the top of your comment.

Chris: Oh...

Matt: It'd be like, "Eh, I don't want to hear LinuxGuide420 again." So, I put them at the bottom, so you'd accidentally read it and go, "Oh, hey, maybe he has a point sometimes." Yeah, a lot of things like that.

Chris: Wow! Okay. Well, that's something.

Matt: But then I human-moderated them for like 15 years, and that just ground me into a paste.


Matt: I was just done. I wish we had AI back then. That would have helped.

Chris: Right! Yeah, I'm not quite in the same boat but a little bit. I also put a kind of hand moderation on the biggest blog I ran for a long time (called CSS-Tricks). You know it was 2007 or so when I started it, so much later. But even then, blogging was pretty poppin' and comments were a big part of that.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: Somehow you could just expect commenting activity in a way that you definitely can't now.

Matt: Yeah. I think people are getting used to typing things in their Web browser and it doing stuff. That was kind of like 2005-ish when that sort of wave started. Yeah, it's so weird. You could have the little blog spot, blogging, and you're always going to have two or three comments on anything. [Laughter]

Chris: Yeah. And in a way, it wasn't so different because it was engagement farming even then sometimes. At least it was for me knowing that -- and maybe you invented this -- a lot of those comment forms have a URL field, too.

Matt: Oh, yeah.

Chris: It was like, "Who are you?" But also, "Where are you from?"


Matt: Yeah. That was the hard part. Metafilter was all about sharing cool stuff you find on the Web, so it's all about links. But then SEO jerks would show up and be like, "Oh..." I mean there are YouTube videos on how to game Metafilter for your SEO purposes.

Dave: Wow!

Chris: Whoa!

Matt: We had to build all these backend tools. They were just SQL queries like, "Give me a list every morning of people who signed up in the last 24 hours and posted a comment and the comment contained HTTP."

Chris: Right.

Matt: That was just instant spammer list. Maybe one in ten would be a legit person.

Dave: Oh, wow.

Matt: Then we'd ban them and refund them and tell them to get the hell out. Yeah, that was my morning routine for 15 years.

Chris: Refund?! Was Metafilter paid even then?

Matt: Yeah. Yeah.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: Like 2004 onwards, it was just a $5 one-time charge. Then funny part is people thought that floated the whole thing. It's like, "Umm... I mean, like 20 people a day on a good day would sign up." The server fees alone were thousands of dollars a month. Yeah.

Chris: Oh...

Matt: We still ad supported.

Chris: Wow! Okay. Interesting.

Dave: I like the model. I'm surprised at y'all's patience. I never ran anything nearly as significant and I lasted about eight minutes with open comments.

Matt: [Laughter]

Dave: It's like, "What are FIFA coins? I don't know. I just want to delete this."

Chris: I would have thought $5 would have totally stopped it. It does... On CodePen today, very rarely do we... We get loads of spam and all kinds of other bad stuff, too, that might be in other categories other than spam. If it's paid - nothing.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: The Pro level really knocks it out. Okay, cool. Speaking of commenting systems, I guess that can lead us potentially into CMS land a little bit more because when people pick a CMS, I don't know if that'd be even in the top five, really. But it depends on what you're building. You might pick a CMS because it has one of those.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: Because if it doesn't, then what the heck are you going to do? You know?


Matt: Yeah. I wrote a big piece on... I guess I hadn't thought about blogging CMSs in like 10 or 15 years - or something. I just resigned myself to WordPress since 2010-ish or so.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: But in the early days, early days of blogging, like '98, '99, every single person had to make their own blog engine because there was literally nothing. Then Blogger comes out, and then Gray Matter comes out and MoveType comes out and B2 comes out, which turns into WordPress.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Matt: Then I felt like, still, up until about 2005-ish, that was the hammer in the nail. I saw a problem in the world, you just need to be build a new CMS, and you'd solve it. I think that's just how... like I know spreadsheet people. You know? People who send you recipes in a spreadsheet or stuff that should be paragraphs of text always in... because they just think in spreadsheets.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: I just think in... I mean a CMS is just like a pile of spreadsheets. You know? It's just like a relational database that you can pivot on and grab stuff from. That's just how I approached every project.

I like the commercial ones. I loved... What I really want in 2024 is movable type from 2004 but with modern features.

Chris: Hmm...

Matt: It exists in some weird way in Japan right now and it costs a lot of money. But yeah, I just used WordPress and just sort of sucked it up. It's really good. It's got so much development. Its comment stuff is miles ahead of everything.

In the posting stuff, a third of the Web is powered by WordPress. People use it basically as a website CMS, really.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Matt: It's more page-heavy, I think - most of the usage.

Chris: Despite starting life as - I don't know - pretty bloggy.

Matt: Yeah, totally! I mean it was totally just a little blog engine.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: B2 was the original and it's just the first PHP, MySQL, blogging engine.


Chris: Yeah. You wrote that in one of your posts that you have a strong feeling that it has moved to pages and sites rather than the blog thing.

Matt: And commerce.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: Squarespace is half a store now, like, "Here's your Stripe setup, and here's your store inventory."

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Matt: WordPress bought WooCommerce, and it's just Commerce. That makes sense if you're selling a pair of socks or - I don't know - a novelty tie.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: But when you're just like, "I just want something that blogs well," the world has obviously shifted in 20 years. [Laughter]

Chris: Hmm...

Matt: But yeah. I just sort of sat down. The last few weeks I've been like, "Man, what does a better blogging system look like?"

I went to Ghost, and it's like, "I remember when Ghost came out and it was just like someone wrote WordPress in Node or something (ten years ago)." But now it's a whole thing and it's nice.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: Yeah. It's pretty good. Although, they just added comments in the last year - or something - so it's like 2002 levels of comment control.

Then Ghost, every single CMS and blogging sort of adjacent thing has its own opinion about things.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: Ghost is trying to be Substack and blogging together, which is great. I'm like, "Fine." I've never really had an email newsletter list. But if people like that better than an RSS reader, that's fine, too.

Yeah, Ghost does things pretty well. It's basically like a Medium clone when you look inside, like the UI and everything and how it handles things. It's nice. I find it nice to write in a nice writing environment, easy tools.

But when you log into your dashboard, it's all about how many subscribers you have, how many of your emails went out, how many emails were opened.

Chris: Oh...

Matt: That's what they have data on.

Chris: Big product choices.

Matt: Yeah.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Sure.

Matt: I'm like, "I don't really care about this stuff. Why is this the entire dashboard?" [Laughter]

Then there are no refers. That's the old thing I used to just be obsessed with is, like, where did people come from? How did they find my stuff? There's barely any of that.

Yeah, so I was just sitting there, and I wrote this long post of, like, "If you could break down every part of a CMS and redo it for today, what would it look like?"

The funny part is... And it's really exhaustive and everyone should go check it out. It's just, "How would you want to store it?"

Oh, one of the basic tenets is, like, we write words that can go anywhere. Why do they only go to one place in every system? [Laughter]

Chris: Yeah!

Matt: If I have a really good editor, I mean I used to write things in Medium when it first came out because I liked it so much, like instead of Google Docs. Then I would copy stuff over for work.

But yeah, I wish I could just write into some Web app and then send it to LinkedIn, send it to Mastodon, send it to my blog. I don't want everything on my blog. I want to send things to seven different places optionally. Nobody supports that. We all have these open APIs and clearly doing--


Chris: There's a lot to unpack in all of this. But that would be a good entry point here. If we're thinking of a fantasy CMS, your blog post is a blueprint of my dream blogging. And there are lots of stuff in there, but that is a particularly cool and interesting idea, I think, that I hadn't seen before, which is this... IndieWeb people will tell you that is how you should do it. You should have a website and then it syndicates elsewhere.

Matt: Yeah, what's that?

Chris: And it already does that to some degree.

What's that?

Matt: POSSE, is that it?

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: Publish Once Syndicate -- something-something.

Matt: Everywhere. Yeah.

Chris: Yeah, everywhere. [Laughter]

Matt: [Laughter]

Chris: Which is nice because it already does that to some degree because it publishes to the Web and it publishes to RSS. Then you wire up more stuff. It's not... At one time, it wasn't particularly rare to have, like, "It auto-tweets a blog post."

Matt: Mm-hmm.

Chris: Now that got all banged up, so that's a little more rare. But it's not totally uncommon. Microblog does a decent job of it. It'd be like, "Where do you want this to go?"

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: I want it to go to my Mastodon. I want it to go to LinkedIn, as you put it. You can kind of pick between them. It's a big mess right now, in my opinion, of what APIs are good in allowing this type of thing and which ones aren't. But that would be nice.

It's almost weird that it's not... CMSs don't take it more seriously. Why is it? I think that would be fascinating to write up a little something, click only the LinkedIn button, hit the button, and it only goes to LinkedIn. But yeah, it does kind of exist on your website, too. What a great idea. That would be awesome.


Matt: Yeah, and I don't even like LinkedIn.

Chris: Sure.

Matt: I just use it because I have to. It's like Internet plumbing now. But friends have surprised me by saying, "Oh, I just squirted out this half-ass blogpost over on LinkedIn and it was insane, the engagement. Like 200 people came out of the woodwork to tell me these are good ideas."

Yeah, I've had friends that show me Mastodon, Twitter, and LinkedIn is 10x the way it's dumping into people's inboxes.

Chris: Yeah!

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: You know Erica Hall? She's like, "LinkedIn is believable for that thing." She's like, "Just go find a quote and post it, and people will be like, 'Amazing!'"

Matt: I think LinkedIn is so boring, and it's like they're trying to turn into a social network, and everyone is just like, "I got a new job. I lost my job. I got a new job."

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: My feed is pretty boring. And so, when someone says something opinionated, you're like, "Oh, this is a smart person saying something pretty cool."

Chris: Ooh... Like.

Matt: It's in a desert of boring stuff.

Dave: Hmm... I like this idea that people are there for the job drama. You're there for seeing people's lives crumble.

Matt: [Laughter]

Dave: In real-time. Then you're like, "Buy my socks."

Matt: Yeah. [Laughter]

Dave: "Buy my product," in the middle of it.

Chris: You're like, "I'm so bored. I'm going to just do it."

Dave: Yeah.


Matt: Yeah, so the other thing, I feel like there's been stagnation, no innovation. I think there's no money in blogging. But if you're going to... You do a share panel or something, you know, I just finished a blog post. Send it to my Mastodon account, which isn't in any CMS right now.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Matt: But let's say there was one. It would just do it, right? It would cut it off and put a URL and do a social graph preview. But it should be smart, like, "Is this less than 500 characters? Could this all fit as a new toot or is it 750 and should there be a quote and then a link to it?"

This is just RegEx you could be doing that could be all automated, like sometimes--

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: I mean I looked at... When I imported my blog, I had - oh, gees -- 24 years of... 25 years of archives. For the first ten years, they're just tweets. They're two sentences. Once a month, I would write paragraphs.

Chris: Really?! You were naturally blogging a very short form?

Matt: Yeah. Look at Kottke from 2002. It's like one sentence, link, one sentence. That's it.

Chris: Really?!

Matt: It fits in a tweet - because we didn't have Twitter. We didn't have short form anything. People hated it.

Chris: Were they titled or untitled? I find that fascinating.

Dave: This is Chris's new obsession.

Matt: Most things are untitled until 2005-ish when RSS forced a title.

Chris: Yeah. Okay.

Matt: I think I remember adding it to Metafilter and people were mad.

Chris: Yeah. I am. I do because, me personally, it just frees my mind up if I don't have to think of a title. Somehow, WordPress mercifully doesn't force it.

Matt: Oh, it doesn't?

Chris: The RSS spec does not either. I mean it does in that it's annoying that you go to your dashboard and you see a bunch of untitled, untitled, untitled, untitled. You know.

Matt: Nice. Yeah.

Chris: But other than that, no. It happily lets you publish it in Ghost RSS normally and such. What RSS readers do with it is up in the air.


Matt: [Laughter] That's probably a mess. Yeah, and the flipside of a perfect blogging CMS -- and people pointed this out to me in replies on these things that I wrote -- was that we're reopening the wound of make the perfect WYSIWYG Web editor, which hasn't been perfected in 20 years.

Chris: No.

Matt: Everything is okay and pretty good.

Chris: I'm curious about Ghost because I haven't used it like you have.

Matt: Yeah. It just looked like Medium. It's clean. It's a really good, clean slate.

Chris: Right. But as you author it, does it look like as you publish, too, or that depends on the theme, I guess.

Matt: Yeah. It's not like 100% WYSIWYG, and that drives me crazy because I'm using San Sarif fonts on my public site, and I'll catch typos differently. It's Sarif on the backend.

Chris: Oh, no. Is it uncanny valley weird?

Matt: Another popular comment I got back was, I was writing this universal, perfect blog and how it could be a service for the entire world and friends were like, "Just make it for you. Just make opinionated software. You should just be able to edit inline," which is kind of like Medium is great at.

If I spot a typo, I want a minimum amount of effort and steps to clean that up. In Ghost, it's like, "Eh, I have to go back to the editor, into the post."

Chris: Oh, wait. Do you think, in a perfect world, you're looking at your own blog post; you could edit it right there?

Matt: Yeah. You know who I am. I have the cookies of the admin.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: Let me do it.

Chris: Right.

Matt: These ideas were around. These aren't new. These ideas were around, and we had versions of blogger at in 2000, 2001 that were like inline editable in only IE4 - or something - back then.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Matt: That's the best. Just take all the friction; sand off all the rough edges of everything and make it easier for writers to just do what they do.


Chris: Yeah. There's a funny part in your post about being mad at WordPress because, all of a sudden, one day there was big black bars on either side of the thing. Then they became gray bars or something, and you're like, "I hate this so much. I'm literally leaving because of gray bars."

Matt: [Laughter] Yeah.

Chris: I thought that was--

Matt: It was in WordPress forms. I go, "Is it just me? Am I right? Is it some ad blocker or something? What is wrong?"

Chris: No. The thing is, I know why that was happening to you. I probably should have said.

Matt: Why?

Chris: The WordPress, in their evolution towards site editing and such, made it a lot easier to apply as much CSS as you want to, not only to the theme but to the stupid editor as well.

Matt: Oh... Yeah.

Chris: But a lot of themes do it really half-assedly, like the Serif versus San Serif, like you were mentioning.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: It'll match the font, for example, so it looks closer while you're authoring to what's published. Not all themes do that, but I just know that whatever theme you had active was applying some little extra BS to that thing. They just didn't do a very good job of it.

Matt: The funny part is WordPress, when you're looking at your own WordPress blog, I see an edit link at the tail end of things. A lot of times, I see a typo, I hit edit, and fix it.

Chris: Yep. Yep.

Matt: Ghost doesn't do that at all, which is just like, "What year is it?" Then when you ask the Ghost people, "Hey, what's up?" they go, "You put /edit on your URL and it pops you right into the editor on that post." I'm like, "Why not make a button if I have a cookie of a login?"

There are just lots of little things that I wish were easier.

Chris: Yeah. Even WordPress does it for individual comments. If you're logged in, you can edit.

Matt: Oh, nice.

Chris: Which I always kind of liked that.

Matt: Yeah. Comments in Ghost I think have only been there for a year or two. I think they punted to Discuss, which I didn't feel like diving into. But I liked that WordPress comments were open for--

Chris: Are they even around anymore? You never see Discuss anymore.

Matt: I don't even know. [Laughter] I think it still exists some. How do they get people? Somebody is paying for it.

Dave: I think they did such a bad job for so long.


Chris: Kind of. Like it worked well, but they committed the sin of--

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: It was like megabytes of JavaScript that loaded it.

Matt: Oh, God.

Chris: You know?


Matt: Yeah. So, like WordPress, you could set it to whatever. I make a post. It'll accept comments for two weeks. That's a nice, sane setting.

Chris: Two weeks?!

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah. Okay.

Matt: Then never again. I import all my Ghost thing. It wiped out all the comments from WordPress.

Chris: It did?!

Matt: Which is also great.

Chris: You lost comments?

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: Oh, no.

Matt: Yeah, everything, 25 years. Who cares? Whatever. Burn it all down.

[Laughter] But I got a comment on a two-year-old blog post the other day, and I was like, "What?! Oh, man!"

Dave: Whoops. Yeah.

Chris: You got the setting wrong.

Matt: I have to police this for the rest of my life? Oh, my gosh.

Dave: I love that auto-expiration. Would that be something in your dream CMS?

Matt: Oh, for sure.

Dave: Just kind of like - I don't know - custom-tailored comment rules kind of.

Matt: Yeah. Yeah, or just come up with good defaults, like one week, two weeks is totally sane. This is what I always liked with every community, I sort of had to help out with.

I remember I interviewed at Etsy once, and I was telling them... Etsy used to famously have this PHP bulletin board that they kept going for way too long. The sellers would just complain just all day. I'm like, "Your - whatever - bulletin board software product you just pulled off the shelf. Any time there's a new comment, it pops it to the top." I'm like, "These things need to decay. Arguments need to end."

Someone could complain about something two years old, and the new sellers would be like, "What?! That's a new policy?" It's like, "No, that's a two-year-old policy we already argued through."

Things need to naturally decay. When you say something in a social network, I expect to get comments for a day or two. And on a blog--

Chris: It was spam related for me. The older it is, the more likely the comment was spam.

Matt: Yeah, the longtail of it. Yeah, especially if it was a popular post. Good lord."

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Matt: But how do you want people to interact with your content? It's like, "I don't know. Talk to me about it for a week or two. Then it's fine." Yeah.


Dave: Well, I like that idea of decay. I do, in the fantasy CMS realm. I've always wanted a page that turns sepia tones as it gets older, tea stains, and just crumbles.

Matt: Burns.

Dave: Yeah.

Matt: Burns the edges.

Chris: Hell, yeah.

Dave: Yeah. Just gets worse and worse over time. That would be the dream. Or even just something more like... It could be AI-driven, but just like, "Hey, I wrote this in 2007. I was very unhappy."


Matt: Yeah.

Dave: "I was drinking at 2:00 in the afternoon at this point, so enjoy." You know?


Chris: There's a professional version of that, too. Just because I have to think about it semiprofessionally for our CodePen blog, which is also 10+ years old that old posts, just in the theme I put a big yellow bar with the black 45-degree, "Warning! Warning! This blog post is old," because there's probably screenshots from ancient UI in it and crap like that.

Decay is one thing but also just cutting it off. Be like, "Is blog post older than three years?" I don't want to delete it, but I want you to know that it's fricken' old.

Matt: Part of it, I think it's like the infection of SEO junk into writing tools. We got rid of dates in the URL. I just liked that.

You see someone going, "You should go to Lake Havasu." I don't know. I'm just picking a place.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: You see /2004 or /12/5, and you go, "Oh, okay. Yeah. It used to be really good when the lake was filled with water," or whatever. I hate that everything is just

Chris: Oh, you're pro dates in URLs.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: And wish that... yeah.

Matt: Yeah, I'm pro dates everywhere. Put it near the top. Put it underneath the title.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah.

Matt: I want... I'm used to journalism. I'm used to looking for that.

Chris: Right.

Matt: That's a key piece of metadata.

Chris: When you can't find it, they're trying to pull one over somehow.

Matt: I mean that's the whole... I think all the advice in the SEO world is, "Erase all dates. Everything is timeless. Change your title to 2024. Every year, just change it to '25 and '26." [Laughter] Like, these are the best blenders that you've reviewed ten years ago, but who cares. Just put 20025 on it.

Dave: The Verge just had a good article on that or a criticism almost. They were like, "The best printer is still the Brother printer."

Matt: Yeah.

Dave: "It hasn't changed. So, any article you read that's like best printer of 2024, it's not. It's just the Brother."

Matt: Yeah. The funniest part is not a Brother, it's just the Brother that's like $90, but that year. Just go get it. It sucks, in ways.

Dave: Yeah, whatever is on sale--

Matt: Yeah.

Dave: --at Best Buy, just grab it. Yeah.

Matt: Yeah. I'm on my second or third Brother sitting on the floor next to me.

Dave: Oh...

Matt: It's just whatever was $100 two years ago.

Chris: It's fine.

Dave: Yeah. Then they filled in the bottom of the post with a bunch of AI-generated garbage, and that was just [chef's kiss] chef's kiss, very, very--

Matt: Yeah. If you search Amazon for small cables and stuff, it was just exactly that, just like 64 unnecessary words after whatever you're looking for.

Dave: Yeah.


Chris: There's an advent, I feel like. I wonder if Ghost has this. You're writing a blog post. There are different ways to approach it.

One thing, if it's a super nerdy CMS, you could just be like, "It's forcibly Markdown."

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: There's no formatting. If you want a header, you've got to put two little number signs before it - or whatever.

Matt: That's how Ghost launched.

Chris: Oh, okay.

Matt: I'm a weird, old Web person. I'm so old, I think in HTML. I hate Markdown. I feel like it forces me to think like a robot, and I'd rather just think in raw HTML. I don't know why. Half my friends love Markdown. I can't stand it.

Chris: If you had to write a blog post, you'd happily write LI tags around your list items or whatever or not quite?

Matt: I mean at least I know when I have control. Now, I mean I use WYSIWYG elements to make it faster.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: And I know all those special keystrokes to do it. But I mean the thing that kills me is to try to insert an image with a link to it in Markdown from memory, that's crazy. [Laughter]

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: Yeah.

Matt: It's so hard.

Chris: Actually, Author Markdown is not ideal.

Matt: You've got to put the pipe before the quote, so I know how to put wrap an Ahref around an image tag.

Dave: You're against the engrupirfication of the Internet.


Matt: I mean if it helps you. If it helps you, great. I'm like, "We should make our computer tools more human, like the we writers want to be." We shouldn't make writers into robots that...

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: --to computers. Even though - whatever - 1995, I learned all the HTML, so I am thinking like a robot.

Chris: The reason it's at one end of the spectrum is because you can't do weird formatting.

Matt: Right.

Chris: It's not like Microsoft Word. You can't place things anywhere. That was kind of like it appeals to developers because you're like, "No author can screw this up. It is just--"

Matt: Yeah. It acts as a filter.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: HTML scraper and all that stuff.

Chris: Then way on the other side is WYSIWYG.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: Which it was trying to literally produce, you know, edit what you see.

Matt: Yeah.


Chris: That's the whole point of the acronym. Then I feel like somehow we've landed in the middle, which is this... I think of it as just block editing.

Matt: Mm-hmm.

Chris: It's kind of the term. It's how WordPress's editor works. But I think maybe is how Ghost is, too, where it's kind of in between. It's like, yes, you're seeing little list bullets, but it's not how it's going to look on the site. It's this version in between. Like if I drop a YouTube video in there, I'm seeing the YouTube video but it's different - I don't know.

Matt: Right.

Chris: Or this is a block of code.

Matt: Yeah, you still have to preview it to see how it's actually going to appear and resize.

Chris: Right.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: But maybe that's the right answer, that middle ground. I don't know.

Matt: Well, I feel like we got to 90% of perfect WYSIWYG and that we're never going to make that last 10%. It's just impossible.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: We spent 20 years on it.

Chris: There are so many though. If we're talking about dream experiences at the authoring level, what else do you want there? Do you have any other things that, as I'm writing in my fantasy CMS, what do I get?


Matt: I mean in a fantasy CMS, it has to... I mean this is the impossible list of requirements. It has to be amazing and perfect for me in every way I write. But then also when I have to write in groups, it has to be a completely different toolset because using WordPress with multiple people is a nightmare. I did it at Slack with four or five writers.

We would actually have to CB-radio call and respond where, like, "Hey, who is editing that one? I was going to go fix it. Okay, are you out? Are you out?"

Chris: Oh...

Matt: "You're out now. Wait. Did you close your browser? Okay, now I can go in."

Dave: Oh, yeah.

Matt: Then it'd give you warning banners of, like, "Trina is currently editing this and we're not going to save it."

Chris: Yeah. "Would you like to take over?"

Matt: [Laughter] You have to DM her and go, "I'm sorry I have to do this, but it's just one thing and they're yelling at me." Yeah, the author environment, I mean I just want it as easy and clean as possible. You need draft status.

Chris: Drafts, yep.

Matt: You need previews of drafts. I don't think Ghost does that and WordPress does where it'll give you a special URL you can share with someone, like an editor.

Chris: Uh-huh.

Matt: That's another thing that's another level deep. Being able to... I mean some... I think maybe Ghost does it. I saw when I was going through all the options that some blog systems allow multi-author at once Google Doc style, SubEthaEdit.

Chris: Yeah. Sure.

Matt: Like five cursors. They're all going at once. This is all saving magically to the cloud. That has to be there for--

Chris: History, too, I would think. Yeah.

Matt: Yeah, history and rollback. I don't even think Ghost has that. [Laughter] But I remember WordPress was showing me I have 21 edits, and I can go back to any of them. I mean it's a lot, and there's no money in it.


Matt: This is why it's fun to fantasize because it's never going to happen.

Chris: Yeah because some of it is the experience of just writing has to be really kind of nice. But then it's how it's integrated into the overall system, too.

A tiny thing is I was annoyed at WordPress. You can't have multiple authors. If it just happens to be a post that's written by two people, it's like, "Well, too bad."

Matt: Yeah. We used to have to write text in Slack blog posts that the attribution line was hardcoded in the blog post so we could have two or three authors.

Medium supported multiple authors that were on their own accounts.

Chris: That's that.

Matt: That's also sometimes problematic. Everyone would have to make an account to get tagged into it. They have to approve it.

They also had edit control after they left the company, [laughter] which drove some of the managers crazy.

Dave: Whoa!

Chris: Oh...

Matt: So, they would remove authors after just to have... Because you could go in and vandalize anything forever.

Chris: Right.

Matt: I mean I looked at a zillion little... There's a zillion little GitHub blog CMSs. It's just one person doing exactly what they need for their own stuff. That's probably the road I need to go down--

Chris: Yeah, maybe.

Matt: --because there are some things that annoy me so much that I wish were a certain way.


Dave: There's always somebody who's like, "My CMS does this. Just CD make install." You know?

Matt: Right. You drop a Markdown in a certain named folder after you PayPal me $5 to set up the API.

Dave: Yeah.

Matt: Yeah, some of those are crazy. I mean WordPress is great and it's terrible. [Laughter] I feel bad, you know, pointing out things I don't like in an open-source app because everyone says you can fix it yourself.

Chris: But it's been a couple of months on Ghost, right? You consider it an improvement, still?

Matt: Um, yeah. I mean it's pretty good. I mean it's basically like your own Medium, which is like you're giving up some things. You can only embed certain things.

The other day, I was trying to put an Instagram Reel. I wanted it to be playable in my blog post. I'm like, "How does that happen?" None of the embeds are Instagram. You'd paste the URL and it doesn't do anything. It usually wants to auto-expand the URLs you drop.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: And I had to find out, oh, you get the embed code and then you go into a special advanced embed. You can drop in an iframe and all the other garbage.

Chris: Oh...

Matt: It would actually display right. But when I Google searched it, the first result was like someone's weird tool for, like, prepping embeds before they supported embedding raw HTML - or something. The actual answer was nowhere on the first page of results of Google, which was like, "It's already built into Ghost." You just go in, find the right embed, copy the right code, and drop it.

Chris: Images are a big one for me. I think you even mentioned in one of your posts that you had to run some CLI tool or something to convert stuff over.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: And it ran really quickly for the old stuff and really slow for the new stuff because, eventually, phone images got to be multi-gigabyte - or whatever.

Matt: Yeah, 25 years of blog posts. There are lots of images in galleries and stuff. I ran it the last two years, and it was like 2 gig. I was like, "Jesus! Okay. Wow!"

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: What's 18 more years going to be? I run it, it's like 400 megabytes. I'm like, "Okay, that can't be right." There are 3,000 blog posts. But yeah, it was phone images.

Chris: Phones, yeah.

Matt: Like raw phone images are 12 megabytes.

Chris: That's your... What that says to me is if you are blogging, you're happy to just open the photos app - or whatever - and just drag one on there.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: Which I think is how it should work.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: Because that's a normal thing. But because it's multi-megabytes big, that is unacceptable for how it's actually displayed on the website.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: Thankfully, both WordPress and presumable Ghost -- I'm sure it is. This would be one of the first things you did in a CMS was make it so it automatically resizes images and does whatever HTML magic it needs to do to display them in a nice way.

Matt: In an appropriate size, yeah. Yeah, and I don't like abstractions. I don't like the abstractions of WordPress. I understand why they did it. The media library is kind of a nightmare because it's a whole other sub-app inside of it when you just want to add an image.

Chris: I know.


Matt: But when I worked at Slack with five writers, we had artists, we had freelancers. We literally had a pipeline of 18 images have to be named in a certain way and go with a certain post. The artist did half of these illustrations. Half of these are photos. Some of these are screenshots. They also have a naming convention.

Things are... Yeah. Things are pretty insane at the edges.

Chris: That sounds very clean.


Matt: Yeah. The other funny thing is WordPress can be, I mean, historically has been kind of a security nightmare problem. We ran it headless at Slack, and that was new to me in 2017 that it just was on a secret server and you wrote to it and it spit out JSON. Then we had a whole other builder that made flat files and put them on our site because all of the security guys were so freaked out about having a WordPress endpoint anywhere on the site.

Chris: So, they just didn't. They were like, "We'll just hide it." Yeah.

Matt: They did it. Yeah, it was just basically sitting on a box somewhere was the actual WordPress that everyone used. And I didn't know this is a whole thing, like Web development shops.

Chris: Don't hate it. Kind of like it, actually, somehow.

Matt: Yeah, they kind of just... It's kind of like just the CMSs. It's just like a CMS pile.

Chris: As long as you have the people to deal with it because it sounded like there was an IT person or whatever. But yeah. Yeah, to me... I don't know if we have time to get into all that, but the authoring of the ultimate theme, right? At Slack you had strong design systems and the whole design doing all that stuff.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: When you make a WordPress theme, usually you're working in PHP and you're doing all that stuff.

Matt: Mm-hmm.

Chris: There's another way to work and it's if I had the data, or if I just hit the API for WordPress, I can build in a totally different way. I can build in kind of a more (what I might think of as a more) modern way, which is hit endpoint for data and then build however I want to, be it React or something. Not that that's an amazing choice necessarily, but I can do it if I want to do it. Kind of cool.

In my dream CMS, it would definitely have an API of some kind. Most of them do. But it would just be great. It would be a first-class citizen. It might be the recommended way that you build a theme is to build from the API itself.


Matt: Yeah, I feel like... I describe something that's like or something. A perfect WYSIWYG editor you're type stuff into. Your output is completely up to you. Maybe it could be flat files. Pull templates from other places.

I would pay for a service that was just my content database - kind of - that was incredibly flexible and let me create output any way I wanted. But I mean that's incredibly niche.


Matt: Like where the weird is.

Chris: Kind of. It's kind of what Contentful is. Right?

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: It's like a CMS that has no other output other than data.

Matt: It is funny. I was looking through your old show titles, and I was just remembering, like, "Oh, man. Web development is such a young person's sport now." There are so many abstractions. It's just like, first, I kind of got off the daily coding train around Bootstrap coming out ten years ago with Twitter.

Then it's like, "Oh, my God. React." Then Node.js was new when I sort of quit daily coding. But TypeScript has to be on top. CSS isn't just CSS anymore. There are all these CSS subsystems and everything is abstracted and everything is turning into C++ kind of like at every level. [Laughter] It's crazy.

Chris: You'd be happy to know that there's plenty of discourse around, "Is this too goddam much?" [Laughter]

Matt: Oh, yeah. Right.

Chris: [Laughter]

Matt: Yeah. I was working on onboarding docs at Slack for new employees, and you know the new dev environment spin-up is a whole day. [Laughter]

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Hmm...

Matt: It's like tooling that internal tools team members had to make to try and make it as easy as possible. It's still hours of, like, "Here's what we do with your laptop. Here's where you go every day. Here's where you get the latest code. Here's how you have to configure 1,200 things."

Chris: I'm surprised it's only a day.

Matt: Yeah. Yeah, and I just remember being like, "Wow! That is--" Yeah. Then when you go to GitHub to make a little blog, it's like, "Step 12: Prepare your environments."

Chris: Right.

Matt: "Run homebrew and do your builds." Yeah.

Chris: A lot.

Matt: I mean you guys have been in it for so long that I'm sure, day-to-day. I remember, as stuff comes out, it's not that hard to keep track of it. But as the years go on, when you get away from it, holy cow.

Dave: Oh, well, it is. It's interesting. We have to know all these brand names, all these frameworks, all these things. Just keep them in our head and keep track of them and make sure they're not taking our jobs and whatever. It's a lot of mental overhead just to exist.

Matt: Yeah. I think everyone on technical teams and engineering managers at Slack, all they do is argue against frameworks every day. Like, "We picked a framework two years ago. We think it's still good."

Dave: Yeah.

Matt: You know? "Well, what about...?" All the new interns would come in with a new framework they're used to. But eventually, it's a container ship making a turn. Eventually, everything in React has to be rewritten. Everything got rewritten in the faster stuff.

Chris: It's just going to happen again, too. You know?

Matt: Yeah. Right. Yeah, you're just like... What did we call it? We were building the plane as we were flying it. That's what we always said internally at Slack.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: Which is not how plane maintenance works.

Matt: [Laughter] No! Well, we see the results.


Matt: also, we were in San Francisco. It's just like San Francisco Bridge. When you're done painting the end of it, you start at the other end.

Dave: You start at the other end, yeah.

Matt: Yeah. Yeah, there was a code shift happening. It was just like California freeway construction. It just never ends. You're always filling potholes. You're always adding a new onramp. The moment something was completed, we were already 25% done with a new conversion to another framework and stuff.


Dave: Yeah, it's funny. Maybe you've seen this, too, kind of going through the arch of the Web. You'd write an HTML document, then you're like, "Well, maybe Pearl can intercept some stuff and process it." Then PHP comes out, and you're like, "I'll just use this PHP."

Matt: It looks kind of like HTML. It'll just be in there.

Dave: You write the HTML, and we are so far from that point in history - I feel like.

Chris: Unless you use WordPress, and then you're still there, baby.

Dave: Unless you use WordPress. Still there.

Matt: I just remember viewing source was the best teacher way back when. Now everything is so abstracted. Inspect element and learning how to navigate a tree is something a kindergartener needs to know now.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah, kind of.

Matt: I think it's wild to me how complex. Whenever you're in a place where you're like, "Why can't I grab this image? What the hell? I just need this news photograph from Getty to illustrate this email," or something, and you right-click and it's not right clickable, and then you're inspecting the element, and it's like divs and divs and divs and divs and divs.

Dave: Just deleting divs until you can click on it.

Chris: Yeah. I will never back down from that fight. I am going to get your thing.

Matt: [Laughter] Yeah.

Chris: I will sniff the network traffic if I need to.

Matt: Yeah. Right. Right. There's like a '70s hacker culture. I'm like, "It's on my computer."

Chris: Yeah. [Laughter]

Matt: It is a digital copy. How dare... What do you think you're doing here? [Laughter]

Dave: Yeah. You have already given it to me, so I am just going to take it.

Chris: Yeah. [Laughter]

Dave: I'm going to just put it in a more permanent place on my file system.


Matt: I remember, in 2003, downloading a Microsoft video player to get some Coca-Cola streaming feed of a Ted Leo track so I could rip it with audio tools and release it as an MP3 on my blog because everyone just wants to hear the song. They don't want to sign up for Coca-Cola points to see a special concert to see the song that he ends with.

Dave: Wow.

Chris: [Laughter]

Matt: Yeah.

Dave: Wow.

Chris: We talked a bunch about blogging. That's a kind of CMS, in a way. What's kind of cool is that you can grab one off the shelf, and it will have its opinions about what is good for blogging. But blogging tends to have the same kind of structure, in a way. It has titles and content and maybe categories and tags. Both if you're WordPress for some reason.

Matt: [Laughter]

Chris: And stuff like that, so the needs from blogger to blogger might be a little different but probably not terribly different. Whereas when you say the word CMS, you're kind of speaking much more broadly and generally in that some CMSs not really WordPress or Ghost (at least in my opinion), they can be made to be CMS-like but kind of aren't (by default). Yes, I guess it's my opinion. I don't know. Yeah.


Matt: Yeah. I would extend the metaphor all the way to, like, with so much code automation today, I think of a CMS as the answer to every question because, like... Like you're at work and someone is like, "Ugh! You know my kid is selling Girl Scout Cookies. I need to make an order form for everybody. Hey, let's all help my daughter's troop."

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Matt: It's like, "Or you could paste into Slack, "I want two boxes," but that's terrible for you. You need to read those some other day and then do the orders.

I love Zapier and Google Forms. It's amazing. You can make minor... You can make a sheet that's like, "Pick these drop downs what cookies are available," and this is all going to go into a spreadsheet that she's going to make the orders with at the end. We can send out reminders of when you should hit it.

Yeah, I'm amazed what you can do with a Google Form that dumps into a Google Sheet but gives people a Web front-end.

I was thinking the other day, like, Ghost doesn't have the concept of a contact page because they don't want to even touch the spam problem.

Chris: Really?!

Matt: I was just like... Yeah.

Chris: Okay.

Matt: If you go in the docs, it's like, "Go sign up with Typeform," or something, "and make a page that emails you." I was like, you know I could just make a Google Form that kind of looks like my site.

Chris: Yeah. You sure could.

Matt: It would just send it to Gmail from... I could use Zapier if I need to or just do it all in Google.

There are a lot of cool automation tools that are low code or no code. I think that opens up the world.

You don't need to know SQL queries anymore and you can get a lot of the stuff done you want.

Chris: It would fun to live in that, like just... I don't know. I look forward to be like--

Matt: It's wild.

Chris: "I don't think about code anymore. I will not code anything." [Laughter]

Matt: Yeah. We did a no-code tool for Slack. It's called Workflow Builder. It's all these decisions and you're taking input and you're doing stuff. I loved it. The first time I saw Medium, I loved it because it was like it cut out 50% of the features of blog stuff and it was just like to say you're a designer, you're going to push the limits of the box that Medium keeps you in was kind of fun, like playing with the edges of what's possible.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Matt: I feel like the no code stuff, you can go pretty far. I've heard friends talk (admit) that pretty popular projects are just an Airtable. You have no idea. [Laughter]

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: It's interesting.

Chris: It's commonly talked about, I think, in the VC or startup space. You're dumb to go too far down the code train with your little idea. It should be in Airtable for the first year to prove that there are customers there and all that stuff. It's a pretty common refrain.

Matt: Yeah. Yeah. I don't think it's magical. I don't think it's one size fits all, and I don't think it's magical. Yeah, and it is kind of... Yeah. Yeah. I've heard it talked about in a bad way. [Laughter]

But on the other hand, oh, my God. I don't have to spend a whole Saturday making a coding app for this house automation thing anymore. It's just like, "Click here. Click here. Click here. Make that box happen." And it kind of works.

Chris: Yeah. I guess AI is going to change some of that, too. Knowing that a human can find those things and click the right buttons to wire up what is, in the end, kind of a sophisticated app, especially if it's integrating multiple apps. Ugh. I hate to admit that there's potential there.


Matt: [Laughter] Yeah. I think we're in a weird bubble of AI where I think... I mean we're trying to attach it to everything, and I think we're all going to come to our senses in a few months and realize about 10% of the ideas are good.

Also, everyone is finding out it's expensive. I have a friend who works on a very popular desktop app, and he hates his job because his managers, every day, are like, "We need to add AI. Our competitors have AI."

It's like, "What is it going to do? It's a creative app." Then he finds out it's a penny per time you press... you do any AI thing.

Dave: Per token or whatever, yeah.

Matt: It costs the company about a penny any time anyone types anything in any box. And he was just like, "We're going to... I mean one user could cost $50 a day. It's insane what we're paying in compute charges and stuff."

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: And the managers are like--

Chris: Especially for the ones that are, as you type, not just type something and hit return, but all the times you kind of pause typing along the way. Oh, my God.

Matt: Right. It's trying to do things, trying to suggest things. It's just Clippy on steroids, I guess. Yeah. [Laughter] I didn't hate Clippy back in the day when it was new. I thought it was sometimes useful.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Help me, please.


Dave: My dream CMS actually does have some AI features. Could I entertain?

Dave: Yeah, please.

Matt: Yes. I'm all ears.

Dave: You can shoot them down. One would be auto-tagging.

Matt: Yes.

Dave: I am terrible at tagging. Please just figure out what I was talking about. Then give me this ability to roll up things. Even that might be a separate feature, just roll up common articles into a little zine or something like that.

Chris: Hmm...

Dave: That would be cool. Then the big one, though, I want is AI fact-checking. Just like, "Hey, am I even talking sense? Did I just make--?"

Chris: Oh, how the roles have turned. Instead of us fact-checking the AI, you want AI to fact-check you?

Matt: That'd be a RegEx that can go query Wikipedia on some date you put down.

Dave: Yeah!

Matt: Is that correct? Does that happen in Plymouth, Massachusetts?

Dave: Abraham Lincoln was tall. Was he really, though? I don't know. 1850s tall or actual tall?

Chris: [Laughter]

Matt: Right. Yeah, it turns out Napoleon was average height.

Dave: Oh, really?

Matt: Yeah! We make fun of him all the time and it's just like, "No, the average man in France at that time was like 5'6", and he was--

Dave: That's pretty good. Yeah.

Chris: Ugh!

Matt: It's not a big... Yeah.

Chris: But AI, because so many people have written about how short he was, probably even jokingly, probably would be happy to tell you how short he was.

Matt: I guess that's what Twitter verification, [laughter] you know when you see something outrageous on Twitter and readers have added some context.

Dave: Well, and I would love that for my blog. [Laughter] People on Mastodon have added some context that Dave doesn't know what he's talking about. Hacker News also thinks he's a big dumb dumb.


Matt: Right. Yeah. He's not drinking enough.

Dave: "What the author fails to understand is--"

Chris: [Laughter]

Matt: He's not intermittent fasting correctly.

Dave: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.


Matt: I mean Facebook and Instagram do Alt-text, like junk. It's terrible, but it's okay. Dumb AI Alt-text.

Chris: They do, really? Every Instagram you post has some bad Alt-text on it?

Matt: Yep. Yeah because you can see it load sometime when you're on a slowed connection. You'll see "Flower with girl next to it."

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Matt: Before the image. And it turns out, yeah, they've been doing this for years, auto-describing what's in the content of every photo to help their moderators and stuff. But when I go to post on Mastodon, I know Alt-text is super important and I always spend the time to write some. But if you just did the robot version and I could embellish it correctly and punch it up, that would take out a whole bunch of work.

I love auto-tagging. Yeah, come up with... We need a librarian in a box. I guess that's the AI we're going for is. I need a little taxonomy elf that says, "Huh, this is kind of about the Internet. It's kind of like that thing you wrote two weeks ago. These should all be tagged 'Internet,'" and then you should be able to roll up all Internet-related posts and stuff. I want visual indicators and nice Alt-text, so my site is fulfilling the needs of blind users or visually impaired users. But also, just pre-do a bunch of dumb work for me that I can make better.

"Robot girl standing next to flower" isn't good enough. But I know I can just put my daughter next to a tulip--

Dave: Mm-hmm.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: --and cut down some of that work. I mean that's the way AI, I think, can successfully be used is as a person's helper. I think the hype cycle right now is, "It's going to do everything. It's going to overthink everything. It's going to think for us. It's going to eliminate jobs, et cetera," when really, it should just be a really helpful assistant.

Chris: Yeah. I wish there was a way that if it happened to notice something particularly unusual then it would chime in. I think of the ship computers and AI. They're not talking to you all the time. They're telling you when something important happens. That's what I'm imagining useful.

If the little, stupid AI pin that everybody hates ... out--

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: --looking at the world around you all the time. I always think of this one, like, let's say a black squirrel went by, but it knows you live in Oregon - or whatever.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: You're like, "Whoa! That's really rare."

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: It would only say something if it noticed that it was... It wouldn't say "a squirrel" every time. It would say "squirrel" if it's interesting.

Or I'm writing a blog post and it noticed that my first paragraph was like, "Bro, that's really sad. Are you sure you want to--?" You know? It doesn't chime up all the time.

Matt: People are going to tag this downer.


Chris: Yes.


Dave: As you're typing, it's just like, "Depression. PTSD."


Dave: It's just like, "Wow!"


Matt: Oh, my God! Whoa! Whoa! Hold on, blog engine. It auto-writes a content warning that you're super bummed. That's all humans do. That's all I found.

I stared at human behavior on Metafilter for 15 years straight, like 24 hours a day. All it is is pattern recognition. That's all it is. I recognize patterns of a new user signs up. Uses a Web link. They're probably a spammer. That's just a pattern recognition.

The other day, I moved to a place. We have chickens. I moved to some acreage. We have six chickens, and one chicken died one day.

I was like, "I have 24-hour video in 2 rooms of the chicken coop, like where they sleep and where they play all day." This was three, four years ago. I was like, "Why didn't AI just say, 'Why didn't the black chicken go outside for two weeks?'" Because I was scrubbing through video. I have a home NAS that can store two or three weeks of video.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Matt: I'm just scrubbing through it going, like, "When did the chicken start to get super sick?" We didn't notice it feeding the chickens every day that, one, the chicken was missing.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: I was like, "Why didn't fricken... home automation AI figure out, "Hey, you have six of these objects. Only five of them have been coming out every day"? And we would have caught it a little earlier.

I was like, "Yeah, just pattern recognition. Find me the unusual things. Point out the unusual to me."

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: It's almost like a carbon monoxide detector or something, right? I just want you to buzz if something is off.

Matt: Something is unusual.

Chris: Right.

Dave: Even if I log into Twitter, just - beep - "You don't want to be here. Get out of this room."

Matt: The vibes are off.

Dave: Yeah or even as I'm writing, it's like, "Yo, man. This is not on brand for you."

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: That would be great.


Chris: Yeah. I want my medical images compared to every other medical image that's ever been taken ever.

Dave: Yeah.

Matt: I do have friends that are playing with AI and they've told me amazing stories of, like, spending a Saturday playing with some LLM. A friend was like, "I built a book recommendation engine, and I fed it ten books I like, these weird sci-fi things. Then I had it spit out similar books, and it's given me a list of 20 books. I never heard of the authors. Never heard of the books, and they're all great."

I went, "Why isn't that on Good Reads two years ago? What the hell is wrong?"

Dave: Yeah.

Matt: I go, "What was your corpus?"

Chris: Yeah. You did that on the weekend?

Matt: Yeah. I was like, "What is your corpus?" He's like, "Every book ever written. You can download it as a zip."


Matt: I was like, "Okay! Wow. We are at that stage. Wow!"

Dave: [Laughter] That's funny. Yeah. I didn't think to just download every book ever written.

Matt: Yeah. Every article ever published on New York Times.

Chris: Yeah.


Matt: I was trying to make a joke the other day. AI is, unfortunately, up against copyright. I wanted New York Times headlines that are ten syllables long and the last word rhymes with "blank" to fill in the blank for a joke, and I could not. I mean I've tried.

I think Copilot could give me ten syllable New York Times articles. ChatGPT doesn't touch it because they're like, "We don't want to get yelled at."

Chris: Yeah. Lawsuit pending.

Matt: Yeah, and know people have written syllable counters and done the things, and you can go find these things and rip them in. It's possible. It would take me more than a Saturday, but yeah.

Dave: Well, this is all very cool. I mean just kind of one final question I have. You've been in the content biz for a long time. You're still in the content biz, but what do you think has changed and where do you think it's going? Do you have a meta viewpoint on where or how content should or can function?

Matt: Um... I think we're in a weird spot in the history because Twitter is sort of imploding. This is kind of like... I feel like this is early--

I mean a lot of people say this feels like 2004 again because everyone is doing weird new stuff because we've been scattered to the winds. We were all blogging. That had some technical speedbumps to it to even blog. Then we reduced... People hate blogging first because it wasn't giant, 3,000-word essays. It was little chunks.

Then we switched it all the way to 140 characters and everyone got really used to that. I stopped blogging because I was tweeting all the time. I think, with Twitter going away as the central - whatever - town square, I don't know where to find--

I was thinking the other day of friends I haven't heard from in two years because we all stopped using Twitter. It's like, "I don't even know where he ended up. Oh, he's deep in Bluesky," or something. It's like, "Oh, I have to run four apps to keep track of 50 people I care about."

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: I think we're in this weird area where I think it feels like 2006, early Web 2.0 stuff of, like, we've got all this new capability. We've got all these new tools. We're all over the place. Someone is going to start making aggregators and ways to pull those things in.

My dream CMS that can go anywhere out has kind of not been built yet. I think someone will do that someday. But I feel like the opposite is what's going to happen, like bringing stuff from all over.

We need something maybe beyond an RSS tool or maybe RSS is the backend. But if a friend writes something good on Bluesky or LinkedIn or Medium, it'd be cool to have it all in a river of news. I guess I want friend feed from 2007 now. Jesus!


Matt: I never even liked it back then. But yeah, I feel like we need better aggregation tools. Yeah, with Twitter blowing up, it kind of sucks. It has kind of spun everything into chaos because there's no central point.

That was the central point where every comedian, every actor--

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: --every Web developer could say, "Hey, I wrote a new blog post. You should go look at it." You definitely get 50 or 100 people to go look at it and give you feedback.

Chris: Why did we fail at saying, like... After everybody was pissed at Twitter, you'd think there was an opportunity to be like, "Let's all go to X." We just failed at that?

Matt: There's just weren't. Yeah. I feel like there was chaos for like a month and then... I mean I love Mastodon. But man, it is so nerdy and hard to use and so many basic things are broken with it.

Chris: Oh, totally agreed, except for that I'm just happy to use it now because for a Web dev nerdery, that's where it went.

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: I'll suffer through any bad UX because that's where my bubble went. Sweet.

Matt: Yeah. I can't believe people are flocking the Threads. It's like how many times has Facebook pulled the football away when you're about to kick it?


Chris: Yeah.

Matt: How many times do we have to do this, people?! You know, in two months, Threads is going to do something silly. You know it.

Dave: It's very Scooby Doo, "Wait a minute! This is just Mark Zuckerberg!"

Chris: Yeah.


Matt: This is just Facebook wall posts.

Dave: What?

Matt: With a new wrapper. Yeah, so I think we're in a weird spot of, like, there's no central, good place to find lots of content or tools to help you find stuff or follow a bunch of people.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: I guess Mastodon does. Treating the social graph is totally yours and a totally portable thing, like, "Here are the 50 people I care about," in an XML-y kind of way that other systems can understand. Those are basic wiring tools we still need to build and build tools around.

Chris: Yeah, it's hard. It's tempting to be like, "Everybody should blog," but we're like, "Nobody is going to do that."


Chris: It's not happening.

Matt: I mean Blogspot was pretty easy to use back in the day. But still, yeah. Yeah, it's not. Yeah. I mean you never want to get onto anything that feels like you're shoving into a void, especially if you're putting your heart into it.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: There has to be people there, and you have to have feedback of some sort and keep you going and make you happy as the writer.

Chris: It does feel kind of good to have your own site, though, and be like, "I agree. There should be something like that." I want to go where the people are. But check it out. I can just push my website. As soon as it shows up, I can push my crap to it.

Matt: But then I know only eight nerds on the planet have RSS so wired up.

Chris: Right.

Matt: I went to lunch with someone the other day who saw something I wrote two hours earlier. I'm like... I mean...

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: I thought that was a one in 100 chance of that happening. [Laughter] You kind of have to wait until it gets passed around networks and someone goes, "This is actually good."

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Not to pull us into something else because we probably hit the hour here, but you mentioned that... Ah... I'm not even going to go there.

You know what? We'll just let it just percolate in my mind a little bit.

Dave: What is it?

Matt: Aw...

Dave: Yeah. Save it for the part two, yeah.

Matt: The after dark show.

Dave: All right. Well, thanks, Matt, for coming on the show. Really appreciate it. For people who aren't following you and giving you money, how can they do that?

Matt: There's no way. I give away everything for free, so I'm silly that way. I'm at It's a complicated URL, so you should probably search my name or something.

Then Mastodon, good luck. I don't know.


Matt: I point people to Elk Zone because it looks better. It looks like Twitter.

Dave: Yeah. Yeah.

Matt: I don't know why the default Mastodon looks hideous and like it was designed ten years ago. Yeah, I don't know.

I'm on social. I'm on Mastodon. I hate Instagram. Barely use it. My blog is probably where to see me.

Yeah, I'm working on a bunch of projects but nothing right now that's giving me money.

Dave: All right. Great. We'll link all that up in the show notes. Thank you, dear listener, for downloading this in your podcatcher of choice. Be sure to star, heart, favorite it up. That's how people find out about the show.

Follow us on Mastodon. We're at, which is part of the Mastodon naming problem. We're ShopTalk Show there. Then join us in the D-d-d-d-discord, Chris, do you got anything else you'd like to say?

Chris: [Whispering], the website with an RSS feed.

Matt: What do I do with RSS?