Random Factoids I Learned Last Year

In September of last year, I started recording random information I had never known about. My criteria for recording this fact was basically “will I want to be reminded about this in the future.”

I didn’t set out with a plan for these facts beyond recording them in a notes document.

But heck, if I find them interesting, maybe you will too.

  1. The Rule of 72.

    This is a shorthand method for figuring out roughly how long it will take an investment to double in value. It’s quite simple, you simply divide 72 by the percentage return expected from your investment. So a GIC with a 5% rate of return will double in 14.4 years.

    It turns out math is super cool.

  2. Karpman drama triangle.

    It’s like the fire triangle, except for drama.

  3. ʻOumuamua

    It is perhaps the first interstellar object observed by humans. There even seems to be some evidence that it exhibited non-gravitational acceleration.

  4. Turnspit Dog.

    An extinct dog breed that was employed specifically to turn meat spits and other cooking things.

  5. Winnipeg’s 1960s freeway plan.

    This would have destroyed some much of what makes Winnipeg great, I’m glad it didn’t happen.

  6. The first amendment to the Canadian constitution created Manitoba!
  7. Time value of money.

    One dollar today is worth more than one dollar tomorrow.

  8. Swedish drill music exists.
  9. The ancient Celtic carnyx.


  10. The UK did not have decimal currency until 1971!

    Get a load of the cash register in that article, it seems completely unusable.

  11. AWS Snowmobile.

    If you have petabytes of data to store Amazon Web Services will literally drive a literal shipping container to you in order to transfer the data. If my math correct, maxing this out will cost you a cool $209M/month, that math can’t be right, can it?

A Case for Webrings in a Post-Social Internet

How’s that for a headline for the first post of a new year!

Webrings hold a special place in my memories of the late-90s early internet. For those who never encountered one, or weren’t around back then, webrings were an early tool for content discovery. In the pre-Google and social media era, finding content — let alone good content — was a significant challenge. DNS provider Hover wrote an insightful blog post about webrings a few years ago.

I recommend giving it a read before continuing here.

I found it interesting that webrings were such an integral part of the early internet that the company was actually acquired Geocities; and then when Yahoo! later acquired Geocities they found it worthwhile enough to attempt to monetize it with ads. Go figure.

I ran a webring. Any tech-savvy teenager with an internet connection could set up a webring and recruit members. This early exposure to a “democratized” internet piqued my interest in blogging, podcasting, and WordPress later on.

Find a niche in the post-social, post-Google Internet

Restate my assumptions:

  1. As everyone has noticed by now, Google is starting to suck.

    I don’t want to say that finding quality things on the internet is as bad as it was before Google even exists; but I can’t recall the last time I’ve found something delightful via a Google search.

    Most of my delightful finds come from reddit, newsletters, or TBH the RSS.
  2. Social networks are decentralizing and fragmenting.

    This is a good thing (but that’s a different blog post) but it’s making discovery more difficult. A various points in the past, Twitter’s algorithmic feed and Facebooks newsfeed have both surfaced genuinely good relevant-to-my-interests content.

    With all my contacts fanning out across different mastodons, if not different apps entirely, it’s becoming more difficult to casually stumble upon good stuff.

Which makes me feel a lot like we’ve swung back around to the content recommendation zero-state that existed on the internet of the 90s.

Everything 90s is back, why not bring back webrings?!

A retro solution for modern times?

Why not consider reviving webrings? But what would a modern webring look like?

I’m not really envisioning a literal revival of webrings. The original webring UI, as detailed in the Hover post, would feel out-of-place in today’s internet (in a bad way). The UX, the concept of browsing sites in a linear order, curated by someone else, might hold some novelty but lacks practicality.

What intrigues me is the essence of webrings: a centralized yet distributed system of recommendations.

If I knew what that looked like and how it worked I would be building it right now.


On Phones In Schools

Today’s child is bewildered when he enters the 19th century environment that still characterizes the educational establishment where information is scarce but ordered and structured by fragmented, classified patterns subjects, and schedules.

Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage

My eldest child just had their first day of grade 10 and informed us that phones are banned this year, outright1.

On the face of it, I can’t help but feel like these rules are the result of an outdated system trying to reign in progress, flailing for relevance. Administrators overreacting to a technology their outdated system can’t cope with. Those phone hold the keys to more information than could ever be taught in school.

IMHO allowing most kids to keep their phones in most circumstances2 is perfectly reasonable. I might even consider it a right.


The primary argument that parents often cite in Facebook groups, etc when demanding their kids be allowed access to their phones in school is safety.

Parents want to be able to message their children to check up on them or to make sure that they’re where they are supposed to be with apps like Find My.

In the 21st century, it’s entirely normal for parents and children to be in constant communicate — it’s almost like having a telepathic superpower. Removing this ability can be unsettling.

The counter argument from school administration is usually that any genuine3 emergency or concern can always be routed through the school office, which is a valid point. However…

Safety From The School

A more compelling safety argument is that of students’ safety from the school itself, when they are being harmed by or feel unsafe at school.

Phones are powerful, impartial data recording devices. Consider the numerous instances where cell phone videos exposed misconduct by teachers or documented unruly student behaviour. Without documentation it’s a kid’s word against and adult in a position of authority.

Despite the inspirational quotes adorning school walls and the well-intentioned staff we hope for, the system generally resists believing students who report issues against it.

The level of accountability enabled by allowing students to keep their phones with them at all times is a very compelling argument in favour of this practice.


The current generation has grown up with screens in their hands from birth. We can debate whether this is good or bad for society4 but at this point in time it’s simply a matter of fact. Kids are innate multitaskers.

This reality means that many kids are totally capable of rapidly switching contexts. They can legitimately be engaged with a group chat on their phone and a classroom lecture during the same time-frame.

Multitasking at Work

If the goal of school is to prepare kids for the workforce, then schools need to grapple with the fact that many employers allow their employees to take their phones to work.

Why not take the opportunity to teach kids some skills that will come in handy in the workforce and be better humans.

Maybe something like a “healthy online behaviour” class, as part of the health curriculum?

It could cover things like:

  • How to avoid doom-scrolling yourself into oblivion.
  • Using focus modes to avoid distraction during crunch time.
  • How to report non-consensual intimate image distribution.5
  • How to not feed the trolls.
  • How to not be a troll aka how to express yourself in short text.

…that sort of thing.

Nefarious Behaviour

Obviously, a global communication device enables, amplifies and accelerates the harm children cause each other. I’ve heard some horror stories about tiktok adjacent cyberbullying. And it would be ridiculous to suggest that a child has any right to continue to this sort of activity during class time.

But most kids are good, most of the time.

When a school proactively bans phones for everyone, the school is communicating that it believes most kids are bad, most of the time. And I strongly believe that is the wrong message to be sending.

Should be Allowed by Default

In 2023, the little always on global communication device has become an extension of our minds; like another limb or a super power.

We use it to learn things more efficiently than we could ever learn anything in a classroom.

We can reach out to friends across the world for moral support when we’re in need.

We can record and report wrongdoing instantaneously and definitively.

We can hear bad news directly from our parents, without a layer of bureaucracy.

We can be reassured that our children are in fact on the bus on their way home, even though it’s 4:30 and it’s getting dark with a blizzard setting in.

A globally connected supercomputer in your pocket is an immense good. Banning them is wrong.

That said, a school should be a safe space for learning and collaborating. If students are using their phones to spread harm, definitely ban them from using it on school grounds. I wouldn’t expect any less.

And obviously, there are probably some other carve outs for disruptive or extremely distracting behaviour, that — while not harmful — should probably result in temporary phone bans. Things like playing immersive video games, creating complex social content, listening to music, etc.

But by default, students should be allowed to take their phones to class.

  1. Though in a later conversation it sounded like teachers may still have the ability to suspend this rule on a class-by-class basis. ↩︎
  2. Except tests, you probably don’t want kids looking up answers to tests. Or maybe you do? Testing itself is a largely outdated concept anyways. ↩︎
  3. “House is on fire,” or “Dad was rushed to the hospital” kinda thing. ↩︎
  4. After years and years of FUD, the current thinking seems to be leaning towards “it’s probably fine” (see Screen Time Is Not As Dangerous As You Think—And It May Help Your Child Make Friends). ↩︎
  5. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection will actively help remove images online, see ↩︎
travel WordPress

WordCamp US 2023

I attended my first WordCamp US this year and it was great!

The Travel

WCUS 2023 was held in National Harbor, Maryland. It was my first time visiting the DC area.

DC is such a well documented and important city that I felt like I knew exactly what to expect and it delivered. Basically to the extent that my own personal experiences feel a little trite given the vast amount that has already been written about the city.

Personal highlights though were finally meeting some of my teammates IRL and biking around DC with them on the Sunday (also frisbee).

So I’ll forego the usual travel blog and jump right to the talks.

The Talks

Videos of the talks have just been posted online (full playlist).

Here are my highlights

Most Groundbreaking

The WordPress Playground has existed for a little while now and it’s one of those things I filled away in my mind to check out later.

It is absolutely incredible.

It’s literally a copy of WordPress running PHP in your browser! It’s not a virtual machine you’re remote desktop-ing into, it’s actually running in your browser! There’s a tonne of potential applications.

Antonio Sejas talks through some of them.

Check it out, I have a feeling this could be the future.

WordPress Playground, present and future applications

Most Engaging

How do you make a dry topic like core web vitals engaging?

Enter Henri Helvetica.

Easily one of the best talks on any subject that I’ve ever seen. It’s fun and you might even learn something.

Core Web Vitals 2023: User Experience and Performance Evolved

War stories

Two talks I am putting under the “war stories” slash “how we built this really cool thing” category.

If you’ve ever worked on client projects I think you’ll find these two talks validating.

For All Userkind: NASA Web Modernization
All The Presidents Websites

Contributor Day

The Thursday before the event was set aside for “contributor day.”

Essentially, anyone interested working on WordPress itself could break into small groups to contribute to a specific area of the project (be it core, documentation, infrastructure, etc.). Apparently, at previous WordCamps the contributor day was held after the main conference when everyone was tired/hungover. The day before definitely seems like the right choice to me.

I fell in with the group making a renewed push for a core fields API.

Read Scott’s post.

And check out the repo:

I’m actually semi-interested to start a local regular contributor day, if I can find any collaborators.

Oh, And The Swag…

I got some.


I met a lot of cool people, had a lot of great food and conversation.

10 out of 10. Would WordCamp again.

Get Involved

So hey, if you’re local to me in the Winnipeg area and you’re interested in WordPress, check out the monthly meetup.

It’s not just for developers, in fact most of the attendees are often end-users.

It’s the on the first Wednesday of the month at 7PM at Red River College downtown campus, more info and RSVP on eventbrite.


Time Travel

I often think about what it would be like for teenage Ryan to be transported 25 or 30 years into the future… as you do. What aspects of culture or technology would surprise him the most?

The two things I come back to over and over again are tattoos and FaceTime.


I don’t even know how to explain to my children just how much of a taboo tattoos were when I was their age. Teachers, parents, adult authorities basically looked down upon tattoos (and piercings to a lesser extent) as a death sentence.

“Nobody is ever going to hire you if you’ve got arms full of tattoos and your head full of holes,” they’d say.

I am genuinely and pleasantly surprised just how wrong they were. Even many of the most conservative people I know seem to be generally accepting of tattoos. It’s legitimately surprising.

TBH I’d love to see a good documentary on the normalization of tattoos.

It almost doesn’t make sense.


Global. Instantaneous. Free. Video calling.

We completely take it for granted that we can have a video call with anyone in the world, for free!

As a teenager, a future with video calling seemed plausible. That it would be high fidelity and instantaneous, also seemed plausible but maybe more of a stretch goal.

The fact that it’s totally free I think would blow my mind.

When AT&T said they would bring us the future, IMHO there was a strong implication that we’d have to pay (a lot more) for it.

I’m looking forward to finding out what my children’s equivalents to these are. Cyberware and space travel? Who knows.