Even though I am the creator of Coalesce.me, I am also it’s number one user. The process is currently an automated job runs at 6:30 am in the morning about 30 minutes before I typically wake up and takes the last 100 stories from my RSS readers, folds and rearranges lines of text and creates a unpublished blog post of that. The second thing that happens is that all the image urls are stripped out from these stories, downloaded and then randomly what I call “coalesced” but really they are composited or superimposed over each other 3 at a time. Sometimes images that have already been composited are composited w/ other images so the various layers can sometimes appear to be more than 3 images blended together. I create 100 of these images, then randomly, as in the computer selects 25 of them sight unseen by me, which are imported into the WordPress media library. Then I look at these 25 images and manually pick the ones I like and insert them into the blog post. Usually about 5 – 10 images in post or whatever I feel like putting in that day.
Some days are better than others. Also sometimes there are less than 25 images to choose from, because the script I have so far written to randomly select the images and import them into WordPress is not smart enough to know it has already chosen an image. Which is an enhancement to the project planned for the future. The goal is to fully automate the process so that in the morning, I would just look at the cutup that has been produced for that day. The only thing I would control is the feeds which the RSS reader is subscribed to.
I guess it’s worth thinking about what is in the RSS reader, and overwhelmingly they are just websites who’s content I am interested in. But over time I have just included popular sites and not so popular sites I randomly come across. Some are even sites that I do not necessarily want to read but I want to try to include a diverse range of viewpoints.
Which maybe gets me to the point of this post today. The surprises that happen. The latest feed I have subscribed to in the reader, posted this story recently:
And the reason I discovered this blog was because one of the images that got randomly created caught my attention.
I was surprised and pleased to see the late Robert Anton Wilson staring back at me from one of my coalesced images. Maybe not that surprised, I mean a lot of the feeds I subscribe to might mention him. I was also pleased w/ the aesthetic quality of the composited image. I think RAW himself would have thought it was a pretty neat collage. So eventually I got curious where the image came from, so I plugged “Robert Anton Wilson” into the search function of my RSS reader and found the story it came from.
It was from Wil Wheton’s Tumbler and look it embeds in WordPress nicely. But Wil Wheton picked it up from, yep you guessed it that blog I previously linked. And I would have not noticed that story if I hadn’t created the random coalesced image. And further reading the new blog I became aware of led me to find an inspiring project that has a similarity to me own:
It reminds me of reading many of RAW’s books, it was not so much his original writing and ideas I subscribed to but the many references to other writers and thinkers he introduced me to that had a lasting effect on me.
So the point is, the thing that was not so apparent to me when starting this project — the project of cutting up my RSS feeds — gives me another entrance into the information morass which it actually is. Instead of doom scrolling through all the stories let random chance operate and allows me another way into the content which is aggregated there. A creative way of dealing with the information overload. Cut the information up.
So anyway the what I call the collage project, which is Coalesce.me is not exactly operating how I want it to, but I now at least have a MVP, the minimum viable product of what I want it to become. Right now it takes me anywhere from a few minutes to an hour to create a post and the goal is to get it fully automated. I’m wanting to go work on another project now but I am committed to creating one cutup a day if possible. Looking at new ways of rearranging the text and bringing in some machine learning techniques is what I intended to do, but I have to build from the point I’ve gotten to now.