Zach Into 2020

Tag: inspired

Working For NearlyFreeSpeech.NET


Due to the incredible amount of our members’ private information and content we handle, and the number and nature of people who want it, trust is a real issue. Consequently, NearlyFreeSpeech.NET operates under the Keyser Söze school of management. (Albeit with a lot less bloodshed and arson, most days.) We strictly compartmentalize projects and ruthlessly limit access to our production databases and systems.

To give a contrived example of how this works, if we needed member files backed up, we would not hire a system administrator to backup member files. We might hire someone to develop and maintain an automated system for backing up files. That system would be developed in isolation. Then, after code review and testing, we would deploy that system to back up member files. The person responsible for the system would thus never gain access to member files, even though that task can’t be completed without that access. The end result is a lot like we bought an off-the-shelf system that does exactly what we need from a vendor with really good support. (Which is also an option we pursue, on those rare occasions when it exists.)

This means that we do not have any traditional employees. Almost all of the day-to-day operational work is (where possible) done directly by the owners or by select highly-qualified vendors. When additional work is needed, we work with equally qualified independent contractors. In order to do this, a high level of information isolation is used. Although we joke that this means a person could be doing work for us and not even know it, in practice it means that they may be doing the work under an agreement with an intermediary, and they will typically be working on testbed systems with no real data on them.

Where work opportunities exist, we do not post them on our site. We prefer to identify and recruit specific individuals, often based on their relevant open source work or other demonstrated expertise. Sometimes we also make small, isolated projects available in venues where good candidates are likely to be found in an effort to flush them out. So, if you have exactly the mix of expertise, incredible skills, steadfast discretion, and willingness to work for fair but not lavish compensation we need for a specific project, you don’t need to apply. Mr. Kobayashi may be in touch.

About NearlyFreeSpeech.NET


NearlyFreeSpeech.NET is about three things: fairness, innovation, and free speech.


Our baseline pricing is designed to recover the basic costs associated with “keeping the lights on.” What that means is that if every member of our service set up only sites and services that subsequently got no activity, our goal would be for them to pay exactly enough to cover the costs we incur. In other words, at such a basic level, we would pay our bills, everybody involved would make a reasonable wage, and there wouldn’t be any money left over at all. Everybody pays their way, and nothing more.

Then, when sites get bigger and become more successful, that’s when we start to profit. That’s the essence of our intention that “our success depends entirely on your success!” However, beyond the occasional pizza, we tend to reinvest what profits we make, be it spending money on innovation, newer equipment sooner, or similar improvements. (No matter what we do or how far we come, our list of ways to make the service better always seems to gain items faster than we can cross them off.) We also like to keep a little money around so that when the really critical legal issues come up, we can fight to protect our members’ privacy and service, rather than letting anybody who can hire a lawyer financially DDOS our members into submission.


Like most web hosts, we use and depend on a whole lot of open source software. Unlike most web hosts, we don’t depend on a proprietary control panel written by somebody else that dictates what sorts of services we can and can’t offer. We use a clustered hosting network that turns downtimes that would last hours or days if your site was dependent on a specific web server into minutes, or no outage at all. On our network, moving sites that are misbehaving where they can’t hurt others is the rule, not the exception. Those are some of the benefits of innovation.

The flip side of this is that our interface and featureset were entirely developed by people who march to the beat of their own drummer. It does things that others can’t, and doesn’t do things others can. While the result of that is something that’s not for everyone, a lot of our members are kindred spirits, and they like the idea that supporting us as we chart our own course helps us support them as they chart theirs.

Free Speech

Since we started back in 2002, one of the things that’s repeatedly been made clear to us is that governments aren’t the biggest threat to free speech. They certainly bear watching and perpetual wariness, but they’re just not the source of the everyday threats to our members’ ability to express themselves.

The most common threats come from corporations and the pressure they can bring. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear from some cheap lawyer about how mad some company is that some website said something that they don’t like and what horrible things they’re going to do to us if we don’t hop to and do their bidding.

We know where the line is. We know what our legal protections are, and how far they go. We know how to tell intimidation from legitimate complaints (which, sadly, do come up from time to time). As a result, we’ve been successfully telling the corporate blowhards who think intimidation gets results where to stuff it since 2002, and at this point, we’re awfully good at it.

(Please don’t take this as an invitation to violate our Terms & Conditions of Service. That’s a betrayal of the trust we place in each and every member to play by the rules, and when that trust is violated, we come down a lot harder than any corporate thug. In fact, we would go so far as to say that in such a case, we would strike down upon you with great vengeance and furious anger.)

(If you want to dig back into the past, you can visit this page from 2005.)

Author macOS Writing App

Novel writing app for macOS. Very interesting, feels inspired.

Visually minimalist word processor for macOS with powerful tools, focused on academic writing for students and researchers. Highest rated word processor in the UK App Store (4.9/5):

Feature Overview


  • Copy from PDF in Reader and paste as citation
  • Paste the BibTex or DOI from an academic PDF to have it automatically turn into a full citation
  • Also cite easily and quickly from Books, Web pages and YouTube videos (from specified time if desired)

Advanced Automatic Export Options

  • Append References Section
  • Create Cover Page
  • Number Headings
  • Specify how citations should appear: in brackets or with superscript
  • Option to have Visual-Meta attached

Rich Views & Interactions

  • Magic Margins
  • Dynamic View
  • Pinch for Outline
  • Instant Find
  • Cuttings
  • Instant Search & Reference

Quick Citation

Powerful support for working with citations to add credibility to your work either from a manually added source or from a book, academic PDF, the web or YouTube video.

Select text and cmd-t to add a citation (from a book, website, you tube video or academic document) to that text or cmd-t without selecting text to add a citation without a direct quote.

Paste BibTeX or DOI to have it automatically turn into a full citation.

BibTeX Magic

Citations can easily be moved around from one document to another by clicking on the citation and choosing ‘Copy As BibTeX’. This copies a ‘BibTeX Bibliographic Information File’ to the clipboard which contains all the available bibliographic information which you can then use through cmd-t (for ‘citaTion’) to add the citation where you want it:


author    = “Milton {Abramowitz} and Irene A. {Stegun}”,

 title     = “Handbook of Mathematical Functions with Formulas, Graphs, and Mathematical Tables”,

publisher = “Dover”,

year      =  1964,

 address   = “New York City”,

edition   = “ninth Dover printing, tenth GPO printing”


When you export your document this citation information will then automatically be used.

This means that you can use this as a basic reference manager where you store what you come across in one document and move it to where you need it.

Visual-Meta Magic

If you download PDFs to read in Reader you can either use the Reader Google Chrome Extension to automatically add the BibTeX bibliographic information to the last page

This is part of the Visual-Meta system which contains the BibTeX information plus more.

When you then copy text from a PDF in Reader it will be copied with the BiBTeX so that you can paste it as a citation.

You can also use Liquid to Search using Scholarcy which will copy the BibTeX to your clipboard as well.

Magic Margins

When you start writing it can be helpful to be able to note keywords where you work but which you don’t know where will fit into the document quite yet.

To use the Magic Margins, make sure you are in full-screen and  simply double click anywhere in the margin to jot down a note or put an important keyword.

Note: These margins do not follow your document when you scroll, they are separate, to allow you to have an always-available space to jot notes.

If you would like more space to group and connect thoughts, you can click at the bottom of the document or cmd-d to enter the Dynamic View:

Dynamic View

In the Dynamic View you can think freely–without being constrained by the traditional columns of text–though the text is still connected to your Word Processing View:

Any text in this view which is also in the Word Processor View will be bold. Double-click it and you will get a list of all the sentences in the Word Processor View which has that text. Click on a sentence to jump to it or click in the margin to dismiss.

You can double-click on the other (non-bold) text and that text will automatically be appended at the end of your Word Processing View so that you can immediately start typing to elaborate on it.

Instant Outline View

Author gives you control over how you see your document by letting you pinch your trackpad to collapse your document into an outline, so you always have an overview of your work.

Headings are assigned by selecting text and using the keyboard shortcuts cmd-1 through 6. To go back to regular view click on a heading to jump to it, ESC or pinch back out.

Instant Find View

If you forget if you have used a certain word or phrase just select it and cmd-f to instantly see only the sentences in the document which has that specific text. Cmd-f again to return to regular view or click on a sentence to jump to it.

Instant Lookup & Search

To interact with the text in Author and all the text in your macOS applications, you can download the companion utility ‘Liquid’. When it is installed it you can select any text and either use a keyboard shortcut of your preference or ctrl-click and choose ‘Liquid | Flow’ and choose a command.

It is worth getting used to since it will allow you to search, look anything up, convert translate and more so quickly that when you use another computer your hands will feel like they are working in slow motion.

Most commands in Author are available through keyboard shortcuts and you can quickly learn any new commands since when you ctrl-click the keyboard shortcuts are clearly listed, something you will soon find useful and wonder why is not standard.


Everything you Cut (but not Copied) is remembered by Author. Cmd-shift-v to see what you have cut and choose what to paste.

​Read/Edit Mode

By providing powerful reading tools to complement the writing tools, the effort you put in to your document will really shine when your audience reads the native document in Author (or in the PDF companion Liquid | Reader). When in Read mode, you can:

  • Use the spacebar to go down a screen, just like on the web
  • Select text and hit the spacebar to have that text read out loud to you
  • Play video citations inside Author
  • Select text and cmd-f to see all occurrences of the text, which is particularly helpful when you are reading a large document
  • Super-Fast access to look up any text using Liquid | Flow

The modes are visually distinct: In Edit mode the screen is warm and in Read mode the screen is grey. Toggle the modes by clicking the Done/Edit button at the bottom centre of the screen or keyboard shortcut: cmd /

‘Quality of Life’

Author is a modern application with full support for continuous saving, spell check, iCloud support and so on, including native macOS Dark Mode above. Author also includes a very large Open Dialog which is surprisingly useful, even making Finder Tags useful:


When you are done it’s time to share with the world.

When you Export, Author (optionally) automatically:

  • Adds a Cover Page based on your personal details (stored from last use)
  • Formats the Citations inside the document with (brackets) or superscript1
  • Appends a References/ Bibliography section at the back of the document
  • Appends Visual-Meta information at the end of the document for use by Liquid | Reader and other compatible systems

Formats include:

  • .pdf
  • .doc
  • .rtfd
  • .txt plain text
  • .liquid (native Author document)
  • Print to Paper

Publish to WordPress

You can Publish to your WordPress blog, including adding tags and uploading pictures.


Future developments we are working on are all about providing richer interactions, including continually improving the citation handling capabilities of Author. You can read more in the Future section. If you have any comments of questions, please get in touch:

Liquid | Author

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Liquid | Reader   Liquid | Speech

​What People Are Saying

“Liquid | Author secretly puts all of the features you need from a writing package within reach while letting you focus on being creative”

“Words and language distinguished the human species from most if not all others. Words help us think. Liquid | Author is a new tool in the Engelbart tradition that clears away the fixation of most text editors on format and concentrates on content and composition. Authors experience a new intimacy with the semantics and structure of what they are writing. All of this improves clarity with an economy that is awesome in its simplicity and power”

On the addition of Magic Margins: “This new release of Author brings a remarkable new flexibility – marginal notes. Imagine composing using this new tool – jot ideas down in the margins for later expansion, with full capability of Author in these privileged spaces!”
Vint Cerf 
(co-inventor of the Internet)

Ted Nelson (coined the term ‘Hypertext’)

“Of all the modern, minimalist editors which I have tried, Liquid | Author is by far the best … It has some truly innovative features, and is wonderfully designed”

“Author leads the field of writing environments centred on content, rather than distracting with dozens of superfluous formatting controls. Magic Margins are another valuable tool which we all use on paper, now provided in Author. The best just gets better, whether you’re writing an academic paper or a blog article.
Howard Oakley

“Wow! I really didn’t think I could find anything that could replace word or open office but I did! I love the features that Author has. The Dynamic view is so helpful, laying it out as a mind map — I love this tool and I like Author so much I decided to try Liquid Flow and Liquid reader.. so impressive. Truly unique and super powerful and you made it so easy to use — I love this WP… Bought because you mentioned Ted Nelson. Best minimalist app ever. The features are very good for writing. The environment is very clean and minimalist and it lets you focus on what you have to do. The support team is very responsive when you have a problem. The best app for writing. Very, very impressive! This app I love…” & more great reviews on the macOS App Store

Bioshock Infinite

Spoilers ahead, be warned.


The environment: stunning. Religious themes: stunning. Visuals: stunning. Levels: stunning. Gameplay when it’s at its best: stunning.

Probably the best story-driven game I’ve ever played (note: I have not played many), though it could be so, so much better.

Lots of filler content, particularly in the middle 4/5ths of the game. Felt kind of like Half Life 2: you keep trying to do a basic thing, then your plans get thrown off. During this part despite the lackluster plot, the changing environment and visuals were awe-inspiring.

First 1/5th and last 1/5 of game… wow. Video games as a storytelling mechanism. Better than many books I’ve read. I need to think through this for a bit to make sure I understand the story.