Kicks Condor
13 Sep 2019


Marker art and other sites found among the ‘crazy cool’(?) group.

This longscroll website full of marker art is a perfect pickup for my ‘dank’ tag. Some of these drawings of Maria’s are even animated! Annnd there is this one drawing down the page of some blue-violet fat-bodied nun with a flesh-colored bat face who is slurping this long noodle of electricity out of the bum of a vermillion pair of disembodied legs. This is like the most interesting marker page I’ve ever seen.

I got this off the ‘crazy cool websites’ Facebook page. Their website seems to be down—but there is an accompanying interview site that’s cool.

Some other links that caught my eye in their collection:

  • Javascreen: don’t know why it’s called that and you kind of have to wait and click on the center part to get it going—this is a bit of code that generates palettes and shapes to accompany imagery. I like how they turn out.
  • Simon Sweeney: You scroll in a big circle until you hit the beginning.
  • STUPID SHIT NO ONE NEEDS & TERRIBLE IDEAS HACKATHON: I’ve seen this years ago—seems like it was on Waxy. But there is newer material: some brilliant stuff in there.

Ok, sorry to be noisy today. Forget I was ever here.

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12 Sep 2019

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Dror Bar-Natan’s Academic Pensieve

How a mathematician self-modeled over the last 20 years.

I’m tempted to label this guy the “Anti-Tufte” because of the MS Paint academic style on this website and the slapdash text layout. I hope this isn’t an insult—I find all of this work inspiring, quite inspiring in a way, it’s like dense mathematics have somehow wrapped around to zine aesthetics. (A lot of the visuals I’m talking about are linked on the ‘handout browser’ wiki page.)

Also really cool: this directory where Dr. Bar-Natan follows students projects.

The directory of blackboard shots is kind of like an interesting take on a timeline. I keep seeing interesting timelines out there—this one is cool because it extends in the future. There was another one, but I’ve lost track of it. I thought the site was too commercial, so I let it go. But now I just want it back for a minute. Ah well.

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09 Sep 2019

Random Tape

Found cassette clips as a podcast.

Along the lines of WFMU’s Audio Kitchen—and definitely belonging in’s Tapes/Field collection, this podcast collects a myriad of found audio samples from cassettes and some personal recordings—such as his friend Danny’s voicemails from his dad or random people reading their grocery lists.

Found this on The Listener newsletter. A great example of human curation and recommendation. Follows the same kind of format as Warp Door—some light metadata and a paragraph review. If I were to give one recommendation to fighting the corpypastas, it’s this: start a newsletter or a blog where you do this. Just leave paragraph reviews of interesting obscure things you come across. Great way to abdicate from mainstream culture and corps of all kind.

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Notes on hypertext interviews.

People will hate this word. This is great because I can keep this page for myself and keep notes here and only the truly intrepid will venture through the tamarisk surrounding that word to be here.

Blogchat is a misnomer because I interview people over e-mail. But the actual conversation comes alive when it is posted to the blog.[1] But I don’t want to call them ‘e-mail interviews’—I feel I can classify them blogchats and be done. Much as people say ‘slide into my DMs’ but reality is nothing of the kind—one stiltingly, jarringly skids into my DMs.

I don’t want them to happen live. My interview with Nadia Eghbal took many months—and I’m so glad. The instinctive feeling arrives that, since the world is connected, the signal should always be live. That one should chat and chat and chat for many months. And the quicker one chats, the quicker one will come to the conclusion, the quicker one will know someone, know things. I have to resist wanting my ‘blogchat’ to happen across streaming blogs with advanced technological scaffolding.

One distinct advantage: asking questions and waiting over time to answer them. It’s not that one is constantly mulling over the question for months. The questions are free to go completely out of mind. But, time passes, and new experiences happen.

I think the best phase is after the initial round of questions is over. Once answers are given, the conversation is rolling and we return to life for a day or a week. When we return to converse again, the topic is quite fresh. The feeling that I am not reaching for questions.

As marvelous as podcasts are, conversations can be too slow. I don’t want to get too deeply into min/maxing this shit. It’s a respectfulness idea, as stodgy as that may sound. You can read a decent blogchat in five or ten minutes and possibly hear everything except the vocal camaraderie and perhaps some finer points. You can definitely more easily re-read and quote. This is essential to me—I never hear it all the first time.

I’ll stop there—it all just feels polite. I don’t think I could talk for an hour and feel deserving of anyone’s attention. It’s possible that some guests aren’t comfortable on a podcast. I don’t know if that comes up ever.

I actually think that podcast hosts might get the benefit of the running conversation, the dayslong mulling—the microphone is always looming. But the guests can’t benefit from this. They have their one shot to say whatever might emerge. They can’t improve or correct anything. Maybe this is why podcast hosts can also be the best podcast guests—they are just delivering another batch of thoughts that has emerged from the muse of constant podcasting.[2]

Of course, blogchats are not some zenith of human communication. They lack the sensations that a podcast can produce. I’m reveling in their brief, concentrated way. Like a rollercoaster ride.

I think the next thing is perhaps to see what it’s like if a blogchat can be posted as a draft over time, building periodically.

  1. I keep the e-mail conversation in chronological order, but I may interleave questions and answers in a way that is harshly ripped from the original material. I am unsure about removing phrases that are related to the upkeep of the chat. I want what the respondent says to remain intact. They will do the editing for their material—they’ve spent time crafting it. ↩︎

  2. It’s possible that podcast hosts ARE actually the guests. ↩︎

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05 Sep 2019

‘I like a kind of irony I call benevolent, compassionate, like what we find, for example, in the best of Cervantes. I don’t like ferocious irony but rather the kind that vacillates between disappointment and hope. Okay?’

— p. 5, Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas

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04 Sep 2019


CRT blog of odd things—and its connection to philatelicism.

(First, let me mention that I obtained the directions to the Cardhouse ‘website concept’ from a massive linkspill that is seeping out on this thread on Metafilter. It is a long list of blogs that have been running for ~20 years. It’s very helpful if you are curious what ‘classic’ blogs are still alive.)

While this is a very interesting blog on its own, I am particularly interested in a few pages for a few reasons:

  • History: A long, illustrated self-history of the blog that is almost like a time capsule on a single page. It catalogs the snapshots of the design—it’s surprising that more sites don’t do this. Perhaps because it’s perceived as navel-gazing? I think it reflects the rest of the Web, too, though.

  • Phoneswarm: A sub-blog covering unusual telephone booths. Also: X Magazine, Macros2000. I like that these temporary projects are littered throughout the site—they are fun to explore on their own, partly because they are done.

  • The Archive: Seems haphazard, but is actually very well done. A directory—similarly, the links page is the old ‘portal’ style directory. Which seems like it could be revived as well.

A secondary site The Erstwhile Philatelic Society is also really cool. It is best explained by the application for membership.

From the FAQ:

  1. What is with the vert|ical ba|rs in the mid|dle of words?
    The problem with search engines is that they allow people to key on words that have nothing to do with the larger web page. People are coming to pages for the wrong reasons – by splitting up certain words in certain pages, people won’t mistakenly come to these pages. That’s the theory, anyway. Apparently there is a rag-tag effort to get this sort of functionality parameterized for search engines, but I fell asleep halfway through the article.

This is good technology.

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30 Aug 2019

Nadia Eghbal, Re: Writing Hypertext

My digichat with @nayafia—an essential writer (imho) of texts, notes and wonderful roundups.

A few months ago, I stumbled across the essay ‘The tyranny of ideas’ and was truly struck by the inquisitive, thought-mashing flow of the writing. It’s just a great piece—I’ve read it several times now and talked about it with pretty much everyone I know. The author, Nadia Eghbal, writes quite a bit about funding open source software[1], but meanders all over, processing modern life on her website.

> Welcome to the digichat with Nadia.

kicks: You have a simple, minimalist blog—very limited styling, an RSS feed, generated with Jekyll—meaning you likely write all your posts in a plain text editor. What appealed to you about a minimalist design?

nadia: Before I started writing, I really liked blogs like Aaron Swartz’s and Paul Graham’s, which were minimally designed. If it’s a blog post, I generally don’t want to do anything that takes away from the text itself. It’s like when you cook a really nice piece of fish or steak or whatever: if the main ingredient is good, you shouldn’t need to season it.

kicks: You are also pretty sparse with your linking, image embedding, all the ‘hypertext’ features of the Web. I take it that your faith in plain text doesn’t extend to these?

nadia: Not sure I understand the q, but yes, I like keeping everything pretty sparse. I do like linking a lot (or at least I feel like I link a lot!) as a way of subtly saying “if you wanna dig into this thing more, you can go down this path over there, but otherwise I’m gonna keep talking”.

kicks: You have a page on your site for somewhat ephemeral thoughts and unpolished shorthand. This page has no feed, so it doesn’t actively broadcast—it could almost be seen as a neat personal touch to your website. However, you are incredibly active in updating this! Much more so than your Twitter account it seems. What motivates you to write there?

nadia: I like being able to publish my messier, half-formed thoughts, but I get turned off by putting those next to a like count. It feels like the more likes you get, the more you start writing things to get likes, whereas the REALLY weird, unpopular stuff probably won’t get many likes at all.

I worry about likes changing how I think and interfering with my ability to wander and explore the edges. (I am truly envious, however, of people who are able to use Twitter as a place to braindump their thoughts! I think I’m just too self-conscious.)

Someone (I think Eugene Wei?) once tweeted that all Twitter accounts eventually sound like fortune cookies. I don’t want to become a fortune cookie. So I like things like newsletters, and my notes page, which are still discoverable and semi-public, but aren’t subject to short feedback loops. I also removed comments on my blog for the same reason, and I never look at my site analytics.

kicks: This is making me seriously reconsider ‘likes’—which I’ve let pass as a kind of low-effort but benign and gracious comment. But now as I look at your ‘notes’ page—not only am I convinced by what you’ve said—I think the absence of all the ‘share’/‘like’ icons really makes that page feel like a running conversation. With ‘like’ counts, I think I’d be distracted wondering which thoughts were the most highly admired—but, come on, what kind of bullshit is that for me to be thinking while looking through your private thought journal?? So maybe it alters reading too in a sick way?[2]

nadia: The problem with likes is it naturally draws your eye towards the most-liked stuff, instead of deciding for yourself what’s most interesting. It almost feels like I’d be taking agency away from the reader by doing that.

(Maybe I’m being a little sanctimonious—e.g. shorter thoughts probably draw ppl’s attention more than bigger paragraphs, there’s no way to totally avoid this problem—but I’d rather not add to it, either.)

I mean I think curation can be useful, e.g. on my homepage I highlight a couple of my favorite blog posts, because I assume they want a bit of guidance at that point. But on a stream-of-consciousness notes page, I’m assuming they’re more in exploratory, serendipity mode. I don’t want to guide them towards anything.

kicks: Ok, now: about the essays. The quality of your writing on your blog is very good, very thought-provoking and unique. Serious time has been invested into each essay. I imagine there is a wealth of publications who would love for you to write for them. Why post these to a personal blog?

nadia: Thanks! I like what Venkatesh Rao has to say about Ribbonfarm, which he thinks of as a wildlife preserve. I like having total freedom on my blog to roam around and write about whatever I want, as much or as little as I want. It’s like the popularity metrics thing: if I start writing for others, I worry it’d start to change what I think and write about.

That said: I do like writing for other publications and blogs occasionally! It’s just a very different experience, and I usually need to have a particular reason for doing it.

kicks: You know, your link to Ribbonfarm there has illustrated what you are saying so well. I’ve never really read that blog—but what better way to find it than in this chance conversation with you? (We’re enjoying ‘sidewalk life’ here—as you term it.)

nadia: Woot! Ribbonfarm is lifechanging, I’m a bit of a fangirl.

kicks: I mean the world is trying so hard to build technology that will have these conversations for us. Especially these ones where we find each other. At the same time, it feels like there is more to talk about than ever. Do you feel this way? Or, I mean—you’ve already written pretty extensively—do you still feel like you’re at the tip of the iceberg?

nadia: I definitely feel like I’m at the tip of the iceberg. There are so many half-written blog posts waiting for me to finish, and at some point I’ve realized I’ll never get to them all. And having meaningful conversations is a really tough thing to scale, too. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

kicks: To what degree do you feel like you need to repeat yourself? Because some important points are worth harping on, right?

nadia: I hate repeating myself. haha. This is maybe one of my biggest weaknesses. Part of why I blog is honestly just to avoid repeating myself; if I’ve talked about an idea with enough people separately, I want to codify it into a post and be done with it. I get really impatient about having the same conversations with multiple people. But to your point, important points do need to be repeated, which helps them spread and sink in. It’s just my least favorite thing.

kicks: Does it ever feel like your blog is out in the middle of nowhere? Or do you feel sufficiently connected to the rest of the network out there?

nadia: Haha yes, I definitely feel that way sometimes, although usually I find it comforting—sort of a “hidden in plain sight” kind of thing. Twitter and newsletter are basically my only ties between my blog and the outside world; that said, I think I’ve gotten a surprising amount of engagement that way.

Fundamentally, I think of my blog more like a portfolio, or a display case. It’s not about juicing up my readership, but connecting with the right people who happen upon it and find something that resonates. I’ve met so many amazing people through writing: I’ve gotten most of my work opportunities that way, and made a lot of friends, too! I’ve thought about whether I should focus more on distribution, but again, I think if I started to worry about that, it would make the whole experience less fun, and I might also start changing what I write about. Maybe it’s naive, but I like the idea of having a public place for my “pure” thoughts, and the only way I can think to do that is by explicitly not caring about who reads it or how it spreads around.

kicks: Well, I think you’re playing a long game here—by not cashing in on the immediate attention and likes of those networks. It’s definitely ‘purifying’ to drain away all those other purposes that could be tweaking your motives.

A home page definitely seems more and more inert—disconnected from society, from live notifications, seemingly deserted. But there’s an advantage to that—it’s like you can actually control the tempo there. It’s like visiting you at your home—down a wooded road—or, maybe more appropriately: your candy store, like the one you mention in “Reclaiming Public Life,” where “one is free to either hang around or dash in and out, no strings attached.”

nadia: I love this imagery of a homepage being like visiting a home down a wooded road. I am definitely the recluse living in a cabin 😃

kicks: I wish it was more like a candy store, though—so I could hang out and meet another avid reader or give you a thanks as the door jingles on my way out. What is an adequate ‘social’ sidewalk for your blog—is it your attached Twitter account and email newsletter?

nadia: Yeah, Twitter is probably the “social sidewalk” for my blog. I’m still trying to figure out the newsletter thing. When I send out a newsletter, I get a bunch of responses from subscribers, but it feels inefficient somehow to have multiple 1:1 conversations with different people, when I’m sure others would love to read them. I’d almost even say it feels selfish…like I’m keeping all these ideas to myself! Occasionally I include some of the interesting stuff in the following newsletter, but yeah, I don’t like being the bottleneck keeping everyone apart from each other. I haven’t come up with a better alternative besides Twitter, but not everyone is active there.

I guess that’s why some blogs have comments. I was so anti-comments in the past bc it felt like “the comments section”, as a place, had become so crappy and low-quality. It’d be funny if comments sections made a retro comeback as a place to have deeper, substantive conversations. Or maybe they never went away, but I’m the one who’s coming back around to them. (Are newsletters are just the slow re-invention of blogs?)

kicks: Hahaha! I believe this is the first time I’ve heard a remark in possible favor of comments. Yes, I think it is. It’s possible you’ve unearthed the first truly contrarian thought on the Internet here… Which is especially ironic because we’ve just been deriding ‘likes’ somewhat.

Ok, I’ll stop there. Thank you for all that you are doing, Nadia!

nadia: Thank you for all your delightful and thoughtful observations! Really enjoying your trains of thought.

  1. And is also known for RFC, a podcast on the topic. ↩︎

  2. Oh and the fortune cookie remark is too good! It reminds me of something David Yates recently said to me: that there needs to be a name for that feeling where you click on a link to a sweet domain name and it ends up just being another Mastodon instance. ↩︎

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19 Aug 2019

Ola Bini’s Letters from Detention

Reflections from a thoughtful and innocent prisoner.

I spent some of the weekend reading these letters from Ola Bini, who was imprisoned in April for basically being a friend of Julian Assange. I remember Ola from his work on the Ioke programming language—and I once chatted with him many, many years ago. He was polite and well-spoken. I am glad to hear that he is now released. (The FreeOlaBini site should probably show his release more prominently—it is more obvious on Twitter.)

Still, his blog is quite eye-opening and worthwhile. There are entries here that are simply poignant—such as Ola’s story of his birthday when his fellow inmates sang to him. In an almost deliberately Kafkaesque way, it seems he is never told what he is charged with—we can presume computer hacking, but no specifics are given. (It seems the authorities assumed this from his personal library—which Fogus catalogs here.)

I feel some cynicism toward ‘open source’/‘free software’ and cyberpunk ideologies—and I think many people also associate this with ‘tech bro’-style optimism—but Ola’s letters have me reconsidering.

[C]ode and architecture are more important than laws. Laws can be broken, but if we build our systems correctly, we can provide real guarantees. The right to privacy, security and anonymity is also a strong belief and the idea that these rights belong to everyone, not just those that can pay for it.

Related to this, is the mistrust of authority, not just governments, but any kind of authority. That means those rights cant be provided just as legal rights by fiat. Instead, these rights have to be provided by something stronger: by cryptographic systems, implemented and run in the open. This is the only real way you can ultimately provide real self-determination to everyone in the world.

A final belief: cypherpunks write code. This means just what it says. If we want a better world, we have to take the responsibility. We have to build it ourselves.

I don’t feel optimism in any of this. I just feel a person wanting to secure their life. This seems like a basic right—roughly equivalent to the very smallest property right, the ability to merely live and survive at a specific coordinate—even a prisoner has that right. Cynicism feels dangerous here—that I’d rather just wander in aloof disbelief than try.

This also has me hunting for other blogs from prisoners. Know of any?

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15 Aug 2019

2019.08: What’s New to Href.Cool?

Most of these links have been posted recently—some removals as well. is my personal directory to the Web. It contains one hidden directory inside of it—and I’m working on two more (one on ‘antimisanthropy’ and another on ‘fake computers’.) In the meantime, I have some casual updates.

Added to Games/Dialogue:

To Web/Wiki, I added an essential link—that of chameleon’s wiki. (Who today has introduced me to a sick term: birdsite.hell in reference to Twitter.)

Removed link to Susan Engel ( in Real/Learning—DNS doesn’t resolve.

New category Real/Thoughts:

  • Meaningness Wiki ∞
    David Chapman (who also brought us Buddhism for Vampires)—to simply call Meaningness a ‘book’ or a ‘metablog’ or a Buddhist resource is to discount that this is a formidable work that seems to both tackle the question “What is life?” and to catalog its author’s every thought. It also sets a precedent for drafting in public that I’ve begun to see on the other links in Web/Wiki.

  • Visakan Veerasamy Page ∞
    This site goes real deep—you have no idea. But you might get an idea if you survey the bookmarks page (which is an impressive collection—feels similar to or the @1000wordvomits page (dump of interesting, meandering essays) or his master list of his own Twitter threads, which is just much better than it sounds. Generous work.

  • Nadia Eghbal Blog 1h
    Started with the brilliant ‘The tyranny of ideas’. Stayed for ‘Reclaiming public life’ and ‘The independent researcher’. Essays to snack on. (See also: The Modern Essay by Virginia Woolf. That’s what Nadia does.)

  • Ribbonfarm Blog ∞
    Venkatesh Rao and friends write long articles, some of which form ‘blogchains’—a continuous riff on a subject. (Via Nadia E.)

The link for ‘Sleepingfish’ in Stories/Brief has changed to

The link to ‘HIGH END CUSTOMIZABLE SAUNA EXPERIENCE’ in Stories/Hypertext has changed to

An addition to Tapes/Classic:

  • Radio Soulwax Mixtape 1h
    These are pretty popular—but whatever, credit to these Belgians for keeping such an ambitious project on a sheet of matte black hypertext.

An addition to Tapes/Infinite:

  • Every Noise at Once Directory 1m
    ‘…an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space, based on data tracked and analyzed for 3,295 genres by Spotify as of 2019-08-03. The calibration is fuzzy, but in general down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.’

And an addition to Tapes/Vaporwave:

Bunch of new links under Visuals/Motion:

New link in Web/Meta to: WWWTXT—quotes from Usenet, CompuServe and such. Cool design.

Removed link to Typegram ( in Web/Participate—DNS won’t resolve.

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This writer/game designer’s home page is full of interesting hypertext flourishes.

This link was passed on to me by David Yates a while ago and I’ve finally had some time to explore it further. And it turns out there are quite a few interesting uses of links and layout that could be useful to anyone out there who is designing a TiddlyWiki[1]—for instance, the detailed organization of Adam’s favorite songs and albums page or the multiple views for the archives of the blog (called the ‘calendar’—which has been around since the 1990s.)

One of my favorite little touches is the presence of mouseover boxes throughout the essays in the ‘calendar’. In the small screenshot above, you can see a spoiler rating mouseover shown on the Stranger Things review. But there are footnotes, images, even short videos that will pop up when you hover over certain dotted links. (These remind me of the footnotes and links on—but with more effort put into designing them—they may have unique colors or borders.)

More than anything, this highlights again the range of things you can do with a website that just isn’t possible on social networks or Medium blogs—perhaps only an app of some kind could be customized like this.

The site also brought to mind this quote from the recent ‘Writing HTML in HTML’ article:

But how can I then keep the style and layout of all my posts and pages in sync?

Simple: don’t! It’s more fun that way. Look at this website: if you read any previous blog post, you’ll notice that they have a different stylesheet. This is because they were written at different times. As such, they’re like time capsules.

Like Phil Gyford’s site, the pages throughout Adam’s site often each have unique designs which hearken to the author’s style and sensibilities during the time when they were created. I feel like websites like this have fallen out of favor—but access to these old designs is now full of nostalgia—so perhaps we will see more hand-crafted HTML in the same way that we now see a TON of wonderful Windows 95 ripoffs in web design and gaming.

  1. And, if you are, you should really be checking out the recent ‘outrun’-colored tags and tighter design on Or the erratic page-filling that is happening on chameleon’s wiki. ↩︎

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07 Aug 2019

Wikipedia on Dat Is Looking Sweet

How to distribute 255GB of HTML and still make it browsable.

This is sick. The Dat team is benchmarking 2.0 using a dump of Wikipedia. One peer is seeding the whole archive—the peer in the video is selectively downloading files. And pages are rendered in a few seconds.

The total archive is 255GB of content with 5GB of internal metadata. This browsing session pulled down 3mb of the metadata and 6mb of content to the local device. (Again, this bench is showing the site get served fresh over the lan from another device.)

The innovation here is the new hash-trie index, which was laid out by Mathias Buus in the recent talk at Data Terra Nemo.

To me, this is reassuring. Beaker has really made progress toward becoming a stable peer-to-peer web browser—and to see them hustling on performance, working to improve the fundamentals—gives me great confidence. I can’t see Beaker becoming mainstream, but I think it could be tremendously useful to everyone else: artists, archivers, the underground—not in a ‘dark web’ sense, but in the sense of those who want to experiment and innovate outside of the main network.[1]

Anyway—just want to encourage this work. This team is really pouring work into the protocol. Happy to give them some kudos.

  1. In fact, maybe what could happen here is just that there could be a kind of Web between the centralized one and the ‘dark’ one. Fully anonymized networks just have such a target on their heads. ↩︎

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03 Aug 2019

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Poolside FM

A vaporwave OS-for-pretendsies tears up Product Hunt—what does it mean??

I’m probably not introducing you to this link—because it’s been around the block for the last week. However, it’s a bull’s-eye for me—it lands in almost every collection I keep—from OS façades (such as and to endless home video playlists (such as and

Yeah, but this isn’t an obscure site like so many of those. It launched on (remove glasses, rub eyes with fists) Product Hunt (this is v2, the first launched in 2014.), a watering hole for e-mail newsletter and blockchain startups. There seems to be no troll in the statement on the ‘about’ popup:

Want to collaborate or build something like Poolside FM for your company? We’re probably down to make that happen.

Reach out with your wildest dreams.

This idea of companies jumping on the bandwagon to fill the Internet with absurd anachronistic Windows 95 desktops is truly a grand vision—I’ll toast to that.

The reaction of publications covering Poolside FM is what I’m really enjoying. On It’s Nice That—a design magazine—Lucy Bourton writes:

There are of course, considering this is a project of pure fun and joy, a few smile-inducing tweaks in the website’s design too with a unique colour palette (customisable backgrounds are a must-try), martini glasses instead of close buttons and an ASCII art boot screen. It even involves its growing community with a guestbook for users to comment on and a shop with merchandise too.

😂 It even has a ‘guestbook’! For the users!

From The Verge:

Bell’s site even incorporates a guestbook on its site, like old-school webpages, which creates a feeling of community.

Has everyone gone back to 1985? This is getting infectious!

Poolside.FM has about 32,000 followers on Instagram, and Bell says that the site has 4,000 monthly listeners. He wants to grow that number this year and continue building up the community. Part of that is welcoming new listeners, but he also wants to encourage other artists and musicians to submit their tracks. It’s a collaborative process.

I only hope that one day we’ll have the technology for you out there—my own unique clan of snakeskin-clad hypertexting sunbathers—to load up Kicks Condor’s Russian Sci-Fi and Iranian Cinema Blog.avi straight from Poolside FM! See you then.

See also: foreignrap, somehow related.

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‘He often invited her parents to stay, as though by studying them he might decipher the mystery of their daughter. They would come to the island, where the ancestral home still remained, and would stay for weeks at a time. Never had he met people of such extraordinary blandness, such featurelessness: however much he exhausted himself with trying to stimulate them, they were as unresponsive as a pair of armchairs. In the end he became very fond of them, as one can become fond of armchairs…’

— p. 20, Outline by Rachel Cusk

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25 Jul 2019

Reply: Lateral Connections


Serendipity in newspapers and record stores is dependent on unlike things being adjacent to each other. […] It’s the caprice, whimsy, lateral thinking, and uniqueness of the curator that decides what link stands next to what else—something that machine algorithms just can’t do. These days we rely too much on a machine serving us hyperlinks; a return to human-curated hyperlinks is perhaps a way of raising serendipity.

‘…unlike things being adjacent to each other.’

Great comments. Even without algorithms, this can be trouble—on subreddits, posts can be flagged ‘offtopic’—so overboard moderation is a problem. (Of course, Reddit is where one goes to fully ‘engage’. No /s—it’s fine to do that. Problem is: people may not know where to go to get outside of ‘engage’ mode.)

One thought I’ll add re: getting outside of my own interests—I think if we had better tools for keeping tabs on our interests, we could more easily move outside them. (Like: if my ‘reader’/‘news feed’ makes it difficult to track 100 people, then I can’t very well track 1,000 people.)

And directories are sweet here—they are little libraries. Sure, they can cover your interests. But they can be used to map the strange elven lands that you happen to sally in.

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Chameleon’s Wiki

TiddlyWiki is trending??

This is getting crazy!! is turning into some kind of cult. And chameleon has entered the fray with a great design—really cool styling on the tags. This is one to keep an eye on.



AND IS PRONOUNCED ``$:/macros/’’


THIS IS TiddlyWiki




I need to add this to my list—I am tracking this community at My dream is that this list becomes untenable. What if TiddlyWiki becomes the new blockchain? Like what if everywhere you go people are talking about it? The Stranger Things cast all have theirs already.

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19 Jul 2019

Fridaycat, the Friday Vid

Our work is at odds. Our networks are not neatly aligned. Links still work. Hypertext works. There is a superset—but it is haphazard.

It occurs to me that maybe the ‘conduit’ in this video—the shamanically healing ‘reader’—is an embodification of Postel’s Law: it liberally accepts everything and attempts to conservatively output all of it to the eyeball interface.

Also: the slaptrash source for this video is here.

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15 Jul 2019

The Missing Quests on Golf: Become Human

A sweet vaporwave descendant of Zany Golf on a sweet fairly new blog.

I have been watching this blog for a few months now—The Missing Quests by Alex Guichet. Like Warp Door, this blog plumbs the depths of—little homemade games, many released as part of the hundreds of silly, spontaneous game jams. However, Alex actually plays the games and provides generous screenshots and commentary.

Depending on how you feel about this sort of irreverent jokey complexity, Golf: Become Human may sound either fantastic or terrible to you, but you should really play it. It changes in ways that keep you guessing, in an irresistible sort of way that just made me search for another hidden level, or to keep seeing how the game will evolve next.

These kinds of little blogs are a staple for discovery in the game community—like Stately Play is for digital board games.

From the FAQ:

Why a new blog, in 2019? I think the web is a charming home for content, but independent blogging has been in a sad and steady decline. This site lets me put a new voice on the web in a unique niche, with content formatted the way I want.

I talk a lot about Hypertexting and trying to innovate the ‘blog’/‘wiki’ format, but I think sometimes a cute little blog is just the thing.

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12 Jul 2019

@visakanv’s Bookmarks

If you want to make yourself a tiny directory, it can be this easy…

So this is one of the closest things I’ve seen to my directory—a big page of bookmarks, assorted ‘interesting’ reads all listed together under some ad-hoc categories (biographies, celebrity, war). And, perhaps more importantly, little blurbs for each one that are really well-done, in that they convey a lot of ‘feeling’/‘synopsis’—I actually enjoy just reading the whole page, to get a sense of this person and what’s out there in topics that may not appear to interest me on the surface.

I think I want to make the argument that building a directory like this is a more, I don’t know, ‘worthwhile’ effort than just leaking out links here and there as you find them. This is a great thing for ‘hypertext’ or a ‘website’ to aspire to be.

A few thoughts:

  • The page says ‘March 17, 2016’—does this mean the page hasn’t been updated since then? This must be wrong—there’s a link with ‘2017’ in the title.

  • There’s a bullet point in the ‘sex’/‘gender’ topic that just says: ‘Economics of sex’ with no links. Wonder what’s up there? A placeholder?

  • Reading this has made me realize that I think I need domain names displayed next to the link. It would be nice to know where the link goes before you hover it. (And mobile doesn’t have this option.)

I also really like this person’s 1,000,000 words project. 1,000 essays of 1,000 words. This one functions like a mini-directory as well, actually—like a mind map or… well, there are links in there as well. It’s sort of like if you could browse a portion of h0p3’s wiki as a linear, chronological conversation.

I hope you’re getting some ideas now.

UPDATE: Hold up, wait, wait—this is rich: A kind of hybrid ‘directory’/‘blogpost’ strictly on moderating and building communities.

It is my experience that, if you create a safe space for a minority group, sparing them the stress of having to explain themselves to clueless outsiders, the level of criticism, argument, discourse, etc inside the group INCREASES. People challenge and spar with each other.

Sweet take. I also just think we have someone here who is really good at collecting. Taking note.

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05 Jul 2019

Reply: The Purpose of a Website?


[Referring to the website] It’s not a resume. It would have been an awful resume. I wouldn’t hire myself by this resume.

And keeping record is, of course, nice. But it has nothing to do with running your own website. You can keep record on Medium, too. In fact, it would be more effective since it works wonders for the small notes.

Still, I totally agree that keeping your own site is a fascinating experience and it’s well worth time and effort.

It’s amusing to me that you seem to be struggling to vocalize why anyone would want a website like yours—as if a ‘resume’ or a ‘journal’ were the only reasons to keep one.

But, as a reader, I think a website like yours is like having a chance to explore that person’s personality in a freeform way.[1] The design reflects their aesthetic (similar to how fashion does for the physical form), the organization reflects their favored mental models perhaps, and the myriad of topics and links makes it a graph-like structure for a ‘book’/‘journal’/‘life’. It’s strange to me that people question a personal website’s purpose—but accept that of a coloring or sticker book. To me, that only says that our brains haven’t quite caught up with how to use the medium. (Although, if you have read sites like, then I think you have a glimpse of what’s possible.)

  1. And, to me, this exploration of life is at the heart of what brings purpose and beauty to humanity—this is why I live, to try to understand or maybe to just immerse myself in what beauty I can find in the world or in the lives of its creatures. In a way, what could be greater than a website?! 😄 ↩︎

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A single-page home page done in ‘outrun’ style.

From what I can tell, this page doesn’t go very deep—but it’s another very lovely and imaginative home page, in the vein of The Preposterous Official Website of Erik Bernacchi or Mariano Pascual. The vertical parallax scrolling is slick and I love subtleties like how scrolling down into the building removes the audio bass-boosting. Novelty websites have really lost their scene in recent years, despite there being a handful of insanely inventive sites like Nathalie Lawhead’s Tetrageddon or the mind-blowing Retronator zine. I have to encourage these sites, because it still feels like ripe territory!

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04 Jul 2019

#SocialMediaStrike StaleStream

It’s time to riot in the newsfeeds!! I saw one guy who posted #socialmediastrike thirty times in one post—yeah, that’s it!!

I’m sorry that I’m so unchill today. I have a sore throat and giant corporations are destroying my most beloved technologies!! These giant corporations ARE ALSO soothing my throat by way of pharamaceuticals—j/k, takin’ ‘essential’ oils.

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01 Jul 2019

I love hearing that the Indieweb Summit this year really pushed for DISCOVERY. Don’t forget that discovering each other isn’t just about automating and algorithms—just basic linking to each other can go a long ways! Highly recommend the talks at What a chill vibe, looks like a great time.

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Social Media Strike, July 4th & 5th

Okay, okay, you in on this? I sure am.

I don’t get the sense that this has really caught on yet—and, I’m not sure why, throwing shade at social media seems like good fun, yeh? If you’re thinking about starting your own sweet, shitty little website like mine—get in!!

At first I was like: “A hashtagggg?? wtf??” But now I see this as an opportunity—if you exit social media (to your own blog or TiddlyWiki or website that day), use that hash tag and WE CAN FIND YOU!!

But better yet:

  • Post to /en/socialmediastrike on that day—an even better way to find you all out there, without needing to resort to social networks.

  • I’m going to work on a new secret directory page on for the things I collect on that day.

  • I have some other surprises for that day—presuming anyone else out there is jazzed about this fun reactionary day!!

I know a lot of people are like, “Facebook is not going to pay attention to this!” Gah, fuck em—this is good fun for us. Is it not?

See you there.

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25 Jun 2019

The Spartan Web

Href huntin’ by Andreas Zwinkau

A few days ago, there was a thread on the link-sharing site entitled: “What are your favorite personal websites around the internet?” So this was a great thread for href hunting. In fact, commenter ‘qznc’ dropped a link to /r/SpartanWeb—a subreddit collecting custom personal websites. qnzc is Andreas Zwinkau.

Andreas’ term “Spartan Web” indicates websites that are:

  • Non-commercial. Amateurs, hobbyists, nerds.
  • Less than 1MB. Unless it’s illustrations, photos.
  • Very little JavaScript—especially no analytics. (Yikes! My site is heavy on JS—although none of it is for gathering statistics and the site should work with JS turned off.)
  • Possibly hand-written HTML and CSS.

Interestingly, I’ve seen a bunch of recent articles praising HTML and attempting to foment a return to HTML. Writing HTML in HTML—someone who started a new blog without any type of an ‘engine’ or static site generator—it’s all just custom HTML. Words and Buttons Online, a directory-style personal page.

One thing I’d love to see is some static Indieweb HTML (in other words: microformats) where you can copy and paste pages to add blog entries. Then an index page where you can add a link to that page and JavaScript can optionally add in date/time/author details from the link. It could also use to load comments over JavaScript.

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20 Jun 2019

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14 Jun 2019

What Draws Me to Surrealism

A few reasons, thoughts behind what is driving the current movement, as well as all of life everywhere.

It’s now time to tell you about myself. I feel like I should tell you something very revealing. From what I’ve read, I’m pretty sure that a revelation like this must occur in order for anyone to care about me. I don’t exist unless I tell you something!

I think that if I am to talk to you, it must come by communicating something, surely. But it’s more than this. I’m also in this mood—I’m reeling with rambunctious energy! I feel like I can say anything and it will be true—but I also want to open my mouth and to say something that actually IS true. So I might try that! We’ll see, in just a moment.

Okay, let’s see. I am compelled to talk intensely about all of life, about the very core of myself. About all of the Earth. About animals. About the sky! About the lightning that descends from it. About little keys and chains and about ornate knobs that exist apart from the original bureaus to which they where attached! I feel suddenly enabled—and this is by what I’ve seen, by just a simple mouse cursor I saw—to attempt to explain this consciousness and to paint my full perspective in a shattering way, to dispel every pretense and to unveil all of life and to do it by talking about surrealism. (Especially surrealism as it exists on the Web, on blogs and on zines as they are coming through the postal service.)

The mouse cursor that I saw was of a simple Jersey cow, lowing in the field. I was not looking for a new mouse cursor at the time, I was simply drinking from a clear canister. The circumstances could not be less intriguing. I was drinking from a clear canister and I had my hand resting on the bough of a tree.

Normally I close my eyes while I am drinking. I close them very tight actually. Sometimes my eyelids hurt from closing them so tightly! I have to tell myself to not close them so tightly. And that’s what I did in this moment: I was telling myself not to close my eyelids so tightly. I was repeating to myself the phrase: Decci Estefani Epcot—which is a phonetical reading of an acronym which stands for “Don’t Ever Close Your Eyelids So Tightly That the Force of Your Entire Person is Concentrated There.” I repeated this again and again in my mind. Decci Estefani Epcot. Decci Estefani Epcot. In my mind, many times.

I am very careful to say it precisely, as it is a slight tongue twister. Not a notable one at all. But a minor one. My eyelids love it. Let’s just say: they were doing fine. And as I said, the vision of this Jersey cow mouse cursor was conjured in my vision, moving across my neighbor’s yard.

I was standing on a ladder, looking into this neighbor’s yard, while this mouse cursor clicked on different things. The grass. Then an in-ground trampoline. Then a bush. A bird flew out of the bush. It clicked on a screen door and it rattled slightly. It clicked on the bush a few more times, but there were no birds there, just a rustling.

I marveled at this cursor—I hadn’t even thought to look at the bush or the in-ground trampoline before. I wouldn’t even have tried. Not before this. But now I looked, I really looked! And I truly saw them in all of their splendor. The pleasant thump of the trampoline’s tarpaulin! I thought to myself that it would be lovely to have a mouse cursor in my life that would click on various things, bringing my attention to them and making them fully interactive. It didn’t occur to me that I actually did have one now. I looked, and it seemed totally independent and detached from me, not mine in any sense, not belonging to any of us, but just a translucent layer, existing on top of the projections of my eyes. It shook its head from side to side, nervously. But I could see that it was beaming with a raw, youthful embarrassment.

Now, this is not the revelation—many of you have written in to tell me about your mouse cursors and what you like to do with them. And also I should say, I worry about bringing up the wrong thing here. Do you ever say something offhanded to someone and then two days later you suddenly throw yourself BACKWARDS against the wall in the middle of the day and you yell HEY WAIT THIS IS A BAD SITUATION! Of course, when someone notices you, you laugh playfully, as if it you were just kidding around—but in secret, you struggle to breathe again and you close your eyelids way too tight, and you find you are trapped in this situation from then on, paralyzed by what you can ever do right again.

What I am saying is—well, first off, I have many times seen a wolf on top of my neighbor’s house. It is usually just licking its paws or staring at children who are playing. It’s sitting on shingles as if they were just another natural biome. But what I’m saying is that I’m afraid that many of you will think I am saying “wolf”—as in “German.” (Because I often used that word to derogatorily refer to Germans when I was a young person. And it was true back then—many Germans were wolves in those days, they would steal my train tickets. But it’s no longer true—so I no longer say it, but I’m afraid to now even bring up the word “wolf” even if I have a good reason, like if I want to tell you that I’ve seen one on my neighbor’s roof.)

So this is the revelation—why exactly I struggle to use the word “wolf” on this blog or even in my private life, in the most intimate moments. Well, no, I do use it there very frequently.

Now it is nighttime and I am confronting this digitally, to see how it goes. The FBI and the KGB are here watching my every move. They love to peep in and to announce their presence on my screen. There is a little icon of a man’s face. It appears in my system tray and it winks once at me. But if I try to show anyone else the man’s face, it fades into an ordinary Dropbox logo. This is quite maddening. But, being a former computer expert, I do know what it takes to make a smooth fade transition.

So, yes, this is what draws me to the surrealist community. And to bee videos, which is the closest thing I have right now to my mouse cursor.

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12 Jun 2019

Archive of Our Own

Everyone is linking to this—but, come on! This is in my dept…

Ok, wow—this feels good. This link is not a search engine, not a hashtag database—but an old school type web directory! (See—Brad, Joe, here we go!) A rising one, with a nomination at the Hugo Awards and coverage in a recent Wired article by Gretchen McCulloch:

On AO3 [Archive of Our Own], users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don’t have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling. Wrangling means that you don’t need to know whether the most popular tag for your new fanfic featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is Johnlock or Sherwatson or John/Sherlock or Sherlock/John or Holmes/Watson or anything else. And you definitely don’t need to tag your fic with all of them just in case. Instead, you pick whichever one you like, the tag wranglers do their work behind the scenes, and readers looking for any of these synonyms will still be able to find you.

My God—web directory + human curation! This is my dream. The article is fantastic: interviews with tag wranglers and greater detail on what goes into it. They’ve actually figured out how to do a centralized database (like Yahoo! or DMOZ) and keep it orderly, useful, current.

To see for yourself exactly how this plays out, there is this spot in a YouTube video that shows how the categorization works. It does lean heavily on autocomplete and rigid selections—but you can always just type in whatever you like. But, jeez, it is astonishing the depth of categorization!

This is not a new thing, of course—so I may look ignorant to the AO3 users who may encounter this post. The @ao3_wranglers Twitter account has been around since 2011—and the site began its beta in 2009—but I think we can say that this method is now proven and can be used elsewhere.

Anyway, I recently made an attempt to describe a curation role just like this:

But I think we also need a librarian ethic somewhere among these groups. Maybe there are moderators out there who have this kind of commission. You are dealing with a community of writers, who are all filling the community up with their verbose output—this is all data that needs to be grappled with.

So, think of a librarian at work: putting books back under the proper heading, referring readers to specific titles, borrowing books from the outside—in fact, I wish communities were better about knowing what other communities are in the topical vicinity—to help everyone find themselves a home.

Cool, ‘tag wranglers’ it is! I sincerely hope this becomes more of a wider trend.

Of course, this doesn’t change anything when it comes to tiny directories—except that perhaps there is now a window for innovation in this neglected department. If you are building your own directory, you wrangle your own tags.

On the other hand, perhaps communities of tiny directories could come up with a common classification system for their group. I personally wouldn’t do this for—because I want its categories to be somewhat nonsensical and unfamiliar.

But I could see using some tag wrangling! Basically, if you have people posting to /en/games and /en/video-games—perhaps you could just redirect the second to the first. Collapse redundant tags into a single spot.

Ok, going to stop talking—I’ve posted way too much today. Apologies, the arrival of summer is leaving me at the keyboard a bit more.

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A dial-up Tumblr.

I wish this was a Tumblr you could dial-up at 2400 bps—but I actually think it’s better than that. (Because interesting technical feats take a backseat, for me, to interesting prose.) This site pulls bits of text from early Internet sources (Usenet, CompuServer, Gopher) and makes ‘tweet’-style posts from them.

I often find sites that exude the visuals of this era (see: bad command or filename or Agora Road), but the quotes deliver some time travel.

"I am an official Nice Guy and I am also a True Nerd."

Many of the quotes are surprisingly prescient, others feel deluded or misty-eyed about the Internet. I sort of wish the entire original writing was cited—but it’s also nice that it’s low-commitment. It takes a few minutes to pore over these.

I found this by way of the essay “Before You Were Here” by Menso Heus on, which makes a case for anonymity on the Web. Thank you!

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  • If my design is hard on your eyes, you hate it—try ‘reader mode’ in your browser. Vivaldi even has a dark mode.
  • Thank you to Jason McIntosh and gRegorLove for reporting Indieweb problems with my HTML. Had a bunch of wrong stuff that’s been causing problems for ages. Feels good!
  • And also to Jacky for bringing up my Twitter problems. It’s an uncomfortable subject—but had to be done. Workin on a fix.

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10 Jun 2019

On Dat://

My teardown of Beaker and the Dat network.

We’re probably all scrambling to figure out a future for ourselves—either by hunting around for some shred of promising technology or by throwing up our hands—shouting and retreating and dreading the shadow of the next corporate titan descending from the sky. The prolonged lifespans of distributed protocols like Bitcoin and torrents means we’re maybe skeptical or jaded about any new protocols—these types of protocols are becoming old news. Maybe we’re just hunkered down in some current online bucket.

And I’ve felt this too—ActivityPub and Secure Scuttlebutt are too complicated. Tim Berner-Lee’s Solid is—well, I can’t even tell what it is. I don’t want to hear about blockchain: do we really need a GPU mining war at the center of our new Web? These are all someone’s idea of a distributed Web, but not mine. IPFS is really cool—but how do I surf it?

After discovering the Beaker Browser, a Web browser for the distributed Dat network, I felt that there was some real promise here. It was simple—load up the browser, create a website, pass your link around. There’s not much new to learn. And the underlying technology is solid: a binary protocol very similar to Git.[1] (As opposed to Secure Scuttlebutt, which is tons of encrypted JSON.)

I spent four months using Beaker actively: running this website on the network, messing with the different libraries, trying out the different apps—and then I hit a wall. Had a good time, for sure. And I kept seeding my Dats—kept my sites on the network. The technology was just lovely.

But: you can’t yet edit a website from a different browser (like on a different computer). This is called multi-writer support—and there is some talk about this landing by the end of the year. But this is, from what I can see, the single major omission in Beaker. (It’s not a problem with Dat itself—you can use a Hyperdb for that—but Beaker hasn’t settled the details.)

So I left Dat alone. I figured: they need time to work this problem out. Beaker has remained remarkably effortless to use—I’d hate for multi-writer to be tacked on, complicating the whole thing.

An Imperfect Dat—Cool?

Recently, it occured to me that maybe I don’t need multi-writer. And maybe I should really be sure that the rest of Dat is as perfect as I think it is. So I started working on a limited (but full-featured) app for Beaker, with the intention of writing up a full ‘review’/‘teardown’ of everything I discover in the process.

This is my review—and the app is Duxtape.

It occured to me that a Muxtape clone would be a perfect tracer bullet for me to push Beaker. (Muxtape was a 2008 website for sharing mixtapes—minimal design, suddenly became very prominent, and then was promptly DEMOLISHED by the music industry.)

  1. Muxtape was shut down because it was centralized. If Muxtape had been distributed[2], it would be much more difficult (perhaps impossible) to shutter.

  2. Muxtape did some file processing. Reading music file metadata (title, artist’s name) and loading music into the browser’s music player. Could the app handle this?

  3. The Muxtape home page listed recent mixtapes. This would give me a chance to use datPeers—a way of talking to others that are using the same site.

  4. Storing song information and order. I don’t have a database, so where do I put this stuff?

  5. A more general question: What if I upgrade the code? How do I handle upgrading the mixtapes too?

I also didn’t want to think in terms of social networks. Many of Beaker’s most advanced apps (like Fritter and Rotonde) are ‘messaging’/‘social’ apps. I specifically wanted a creation tool that spit out something that was easy to share.

How would Beaker do with that kind of tool?

A Teardown of The Network

Ok, so how does Dat work exactly? It is simply a unique address attached to a folder of files (kind of like a ZIP file.) You then share that folder on the network and others can sync it to their system when they visit the unique address.

In the case of Duxtape, the address is dat://df1cc…40.

Duxtapes file view.

The full folder contents can be viewed here at datBase.

So when you visit Duxtape, all that stuff is downloaded. Beaker will show you the index.html, which simply lets you create a new mixtape and lists any that you’ve encountered.

Now, you can’t edit my Dat—so how do you create a mixtape?? And how does it keep track of other mixtapes?? Teardown time!


This creates a new Dat (new folder on your computer) with just index.html inside. I actually copy the tape.html from my Dat into that folder, your mixtape. That HTML file will load its images and Javascript and such from MY Duxtape dat! (This means I can upgrade my original Dat—and upgrade YOUR Dat automatically—cool, but… dangerous.)


When you hit someone else’s mixtape link, the Javascript loads the Duxtape home page in an HTML iframe—passing the link to that page. The link is then stored in ‘localStorage’ for that page. So, those are kept in a kind of a cookie. Nothing very server-like about any of that.

But furthermore: when you are on the Duxtape homepage, your browser will connect to other browsers (using datPeers) that are viewing the homepage. And you will trade mixtapes there. Think about this: you can only discover those who happen to be around when you are! It truly acts like a street corner for a random encounter.


Where are song titles and song ordering kept? Well, heh—this is just kept in the HTML—in your index.html. Many Beaker apps keep stuff like this in a JSON file. But I felt that there was no need for duplication. (I think the IndieWeb has fully corrupted me.) When I want to read the mixtape title, I load the index.html and find the proper tags in the page. (Like: span.tape-title, for instance.)


Beaker has a special technique you can use for batching up edits before you publish them. (See the checkout method.) Basically, you can create a temporary Dat, make your changes to it, then either delete it or publish it.

However, I didn’t go this route. It turned out that I could batch up all my changes in the browser before saving them. This includes uploaded files! I can play files in the browser and read their data without copying them to the Dat. So no need to do this. It’s a neat feature—for a different app.

So this allows you to work on your mixtape, add and delete songs, get it perfect—then upload things to the network.[3]

This all worked very well—though I doubt it would work as well if you had 1,000 songs on your mixtape. In that case, I’d probably recommend using a database to store stuff rather than HTML. But it still might work well for 1,000 songs—and maybe even 1,000,000. This is another advantage to not having a server as a bottleneck. There is only so much that a single person can do to overload their browser.

For reading song metadata, I used the music-metadata-browser library—yes, I actually parse the MP3 and OGG files right in the browser! This can only happen in modern times: Javascript has become a competent technology on the server, now all of that good stuff can move into the browser and the whole app doesn’t need a server—in fact, WebAssembly makes Dat even more compelling.

Special Feature: The DatArchive Object

Lastly, here are some calls that I used which are specific to the Beaker Browser—these are the only differences between running Duxtape in plain Chrome and running it distributed:

  1. stat: I use this to check if a song file has already been uploaded.

  2. readFile: To read the index.html when I need to get song information.

  3. writeFile: To save changes to songs—to publish the index.html for your mixtape.

  4. unlink: To delete songs—NOTE: that songs are still in the Dat’s history and may be downloaded.

  5. getInfo and configure: Just to update the name of the mixtape’s Dat if the name of the mixtape is changed by you. A small touch.

  6. isOwner: The getInfo() above also tells me if you are the owner of this mixtape. This is crucial! I wanted to highlight this—I use this to enable mixtape editing automatically. If you don’t own the mixtape, you don’t see this. (All editor controls are removed when the index.html is saved back to disk.)

So this should give you a good idea of what Dat adds. And I just want to say: I have been wondering for awhile why Dat has its own special format rather than just using something like Git. But now I see: that would be too complex. I am so glad that I don’t have to pull() and commit() and all that.

I spent most of my time working on the design and on subtle niceties—and that’s how it should be.

Peeling Back the Good and Bad

It’s clear that there are tremendous advantages here: Dat is apps without death. Because there is no server, it is simple to both seed an app (keep it going) and to copy it (re-centralize it). I have one central Duxtape right now (, but you could easily fork that one (using Beaker’s ‘make editable copy’ button) and improve it, take it further.

The roots of ‘view source’ live on, in an incredibly realized form. (In Beaker, you can right-click on Duxtape and ‘view source’ for the entire app. You can do this for your mixtapes, too. Question: When was the last time you inspected the code hosting your Webmail, your blog, your photo storage? Related question: When was the first time?)

In fact, it now becomes HARD:IMPOSSIBLE to take down an app. There is no app store to shut things down. There is no central app to target. In minutes, it can be renamed, rehashed, reminified even (if needed)—reborn on the network.

This has a fascinating conflict with the need to version and centralize an app. Many might desire to stay with the authoritative app—to preserve their data, to stay in touch with the seeders of that central app. But this is a good tension, too—it INSISTS on backwards compatibility. I am pressured to keep Duxtape’s conventions, to preserve everyone’s mixtapes. It will be difficult to upgrade everything that is possibly out there.

This same pressure is reminiscent of the Web’s own history: HTML that ran in 1995 often still runs today—Flash and Quicktime are quite the opposite, as will be all of the native apps of today. (Think of apps you’ve bought that are already outmoded.) The ‘view source’ keeps compatibility in check. If Beaker is able to keep their APIs firm, then there is real strength here.

Still, Dat is limited. Where is it short? Can we accept these?

  • It truly RESISTS centralization. This becomes starkly apparent when you are working on your app—you cannot connect to a REST web service. You need to rethink everything. This is good—but it is painful.
  • Discovery suffers. This is related: I cannot just advertise published mixtapes to a central web server that stays up all night showing off how busy things are. But, as I mentioned above (in the PUBLISHING A MIXTAPE section,) the datPeers feature has really helped assuage this sore spot.
  • Not everything can be stored in the browser. How does a search engine work on this network? Or is this type of centralization something we should resist? (I do offer search on my Dat-version of this website, by leaning on Elasticlunr.js.)
  • Inter-app communication is hard. Earlier I mentioned that I need to use an HTML iframe to communicate with the Duxtape home page—there is no need to use the Fetch API (AJAX) in Beaker, ever. DatArchive deprecates it. (Though I would be interested to see a use for the Fetch API—if a Dat could house a GUI-less service, to negate the need for iframes.)
  • The multi-writer problem. Again: you cannot edit a Dat from a second machine.

But—think about this: I don’t have to take on cloud hosting! I don’t need to scale the app! This is a huge relief. URGENT QUESTION: Why are we trying to even do this?

I also mentioned not needing the multi-writer feature. Obviously, multi-writer demands some centralization. A central Dat needs to authorize other Dats. But I think this centralization could be moved to the DNS resolution—basically, if I edit Duxtape on a second machine, it will have a new unique address—and I can point to that new address. This means I can never get locked out of the Dat—unless I am locked out of the DNS. (So there is a way forward without any new features.)

Still, these downsides are pure side effects of a distributed Web. These are the realities we’re asking for—for me, it’s time to start accepting them.

Dat Uptake

Several months had passed since I last used Dat—how was it doing with adoption?

Well, it seems, no different. But it’s hard to say for a distributed network. Every Dat runs in secret—they are difficult to find. The discovery problems are perhaps the most urgent ones.

But there is good recent work:

  • Cabal: Not a browser project. Just an IRC-like network on Dat. There is very active work on all of these projects.
  • Data Terra Nemo and the DWeb Camp show that ‘distributed web’ stuff has momentum. Beaker seems to have a solid presence at these.
  • Unwalled Garden: The developer of Beaker is dabbling with… social networks. This is probably needed, though. But I would hope for more work on multi-writer, on sparse downloading, on different modes of seeding (like it would be cool to have a ‘vacuum’ type mode—where you only seed the latest,) or on BitTorrent integration. (I wish I could just serve large files with BitTorrent and mix dat: and magnet: links!)[4]
  • The Dat project’s blog has all kinds of academic and hobbyist work going on.

These are all cool—but Dat has a long way to go. With the corpypastas taking up all the attention, adoption is terribly slow. What Beaker may need most of all is a mobile version. But, hey, I’ll write my article here and make my dent—if you feel stimulated to noise about, then please join in. I mean: using a new web browser is just very low effort—perhaps the lowest. You need to use one anyway!

I think HTTPS has proven itself well for the centralized stuff. Perhaps there is a future for HTTPS as simply a collection of centralized REST APIs for things like search and peer discovery. I think the remaining apps could migrate to this fertile garden emerging on the Dat network.

  1. It should be noted that there is a document called “How Dat Works”, which goes into all the details and which is absolutely beautiful, well-organized and, yeah, it actually teaches you very plainly how Dat works! I am not sure I’ve seen such a well-made ‘white paper’/‘spec’-type doc. ↩︎

  2. Apps on the Dat network have no ‘server’, they can be seeded like any other file. ↩︎

  3. Clearly Dat apps will need to put extra work into providing a scratch area for draft work—the protocol puts this pressure on the app. I think this also makes the system lean toward single-page apps, to assist drafting when in a large app. ↩︎

  4. I would be REALLY interested in seeing an equivalent to The Pirate Bay on Beaker. If you could move a tracker to the Dat network, much would be learned about how to decentralize search. ↩︎

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08 Jun 2019


I’m sorry… another project…

While messing with Dat last night, I got carried away in nostalgia and began… recreating Muxtape in Dat. I wanted to see how far I could get. (If you don’t know what Muxtape was—it was a way of sharing mp3 mixtapes online for a brief window of time in 2008, until it was shut down by the grown-ups.)

So, it seemed interesting to try to replicate Muxtape, because it would be very hard to “shut down” on the Dat network. And, sure enough, I was able to get it working quite well: you can upload songs, tweak the colors and titles, order the songs and such—I think this is quite faithful.

And, yes, it’s peer-to-peer. You can edit your tape using the URL created for you. Then you can pass that same URL out to share your tape. Visitors can listen to the music and seed the tape for everyone else.

If you’re interested in seeing what a mix looks like, try: hyper://61477c44…1c/. (You’ll need Beaker.)

Source code is here. Inspired by Tara Vancil’s dat-photos-app. Thanks, Tara!

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06 Jun 2019

The Dat version of my site fell behind, but is now back. Large stuff (videos, audio) are still on HTTP. I have changed my Dat hash—the raw URL—so I wonder if any seeds out there will automatically update.

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05 Jun 2019

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Phil Gyford’s Blogroll

Extraordinarily simple, useful, sweet.

I’ve linked to Phil Gyford last year in the post Timeline of Things Phil’s Done, which I am happy to link to again, because I recently worked on a timeline of a friend’s life and used this as a starting point. Timelines are a rich, underused visual catalog for hypertext.

Phil has just added a blogroll to the same website. This seems uneventful, except that:

  • The design of the ‘writing’ section is fantastic—while completely minimal and faintly ‘brutalist’—am I close? If you are starting on a new blog, look at Phil’s. I’m all about aesthetics and colors—but it’s usually a far second place to organization.

  • And I must ask: do you have a blogroll? Google would prefer you not to. But it’s the smallest, most atomic tiny directory—akin to ‘little libraries’ you see on the roadside.

  • Every single one of these links works! This is a watershed moment in 2019.

Find someone new to read today. You might find a friend. You might read something that really changes you. The world might seem a little more alive again.

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I have done a bit of work on Slaptrash—there is now a play button, rather than always autoplaying. I’m working through mobile issues still. This isn’t a serious project for me—it’s just a nice diversion. There are some ideas that I want to convey in a ‘slideshow’/‘zine’ approach.

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