Kicks Condor

#infoshaping

I use three main tags on this blog:

  • hypertext: linking, the Web, the future of it all.

  • garage: art and creation, tinkering, zines and books, kind of a junk drawer - sorry!

  • elementary: schooling for young kids.

09 Dec 2019

Blogging Less in the 2020s

How frequently should you post to keep pace with the next decade?

Posting every day — multiple times a day — is indispensable. This is one of the main factors the Instagram algorithm uses to determine how much they are going to expose you to the public (via the “explore page”). Posting every day, especially at “rush hour” times, is much harder and more monotonous than you might think. Most people give up on this task after a few weeks, and even missing a day or two can be detrimental. So, I automated the content collecting and sharing process.

— Chris Buetti, “How I Eat For Free in NYC Using Python, Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Instagram”

Facebook posts reach their half-life at the 90-minute mark, nearly four times longer than Twitter.

— Buffer’s “Social Media Frequency Guide”

Consistency. Asking friends who work in social media and marketing, this is the current dominant advice - for both ‘influencer’ types and DIY creators. This word seems to be everything right now.

The implication is that you should post frequently, with as much quality as you can muster, to stay relevant. Otherwise, you’ll drop off the end as new ‘content’ crowds it out. And this is happening all day.

The fact that they only post twice a week sheds light on their poor performance. While Nike is a cool brand, their social media content’s infrequencies are taking a toll.

— Dash Hudson, “The Truth About How Often You Should Be Posting on Instagram”

This is an artifact of how social media platforms are constructed. It doesn’t benefit the writer to need to focus on consistency over quality, does it? So does it benefit the reader?

It benefits the platform. And, at this point, there are many different platforms, all demanding your ‘consistency’.

Last year I decided to begin posting only on Tuesday Friday. (Since changed to Monday and Thursday.) I might post a couple times on each of those days. Even worse: I’m posting on a blog in the middle of nowhere, not on a platform that has the benefit of an existing network of users. (Unless you consider the Web itself an existing network of users.)

Convention dictates that I should now show a bunch of statistics demonstrating that posting biweekly had a great statistical benefit and led to ‘success’. However, I believe that would be a cold comfort.[1] I don’t keep traffic statistics - my favorite novels don’t have tracking devices inside, do they? And articles that statistically show ‘success’ are what have led us to ‘consistency’. I don’t think my social media friends are wrong about what is working in 2019.

Most weblogs are unfunded, spare-time ventures, yet most webloggers update their sites five days a week, and some even work on weekends!

— p. 127, Rebecca Blood, The Weblog Handbook (2002)

Does anyone really want ‘likes’? Or do they want ‘followers’? Or ‘visits’ or ‘impressions’? These are numerical decoys for something else.

When I think about writing online - I really just want to add something to someone’s life. To introduce them to a link, in the same way that Andy Baio introduced me to HIGH END CUSTOMIZABLE SAUNA EXPERIENCE. Or to write something they enjoy, just as Nadia Eghbal did with “The Tyranny of Ideas” - an essay I keep coming back to. Or maybe I meet them and can’t even sum it up with a single link, as with h0p3 (at philosopher.life) who I just like to converse with and keep up with throughout my week.

In this way, I feel successful. I might get a nice e-mail from someone. Or I might hear from someone I linked to, saying, “Hey, I had a few people find me through you.” Or I might just not know at all - most people just read and move on, which is totally understandable. And it might be several years later that they say thanks in some blog post that I stumble across.

I think that, even if you do play the ‘consistency’ game, you have to come to terms with not knowing. Why not start there then?

There are lots of strategies out there for gaming the system: posting at optimal times on a regular schedule, using hashtags and keywords, etc, but algorithms change and update as quickly as users adapt, and a battle where you can only react to your opponents moves isn’t one that can be won.

— Y. Kiri Yu, “The Only Way to Beat Algorithms is to Retrain Your Audience”

If I could statistically show you the good memories - the ones I will hold on to - from the past two years, I would show that graph here. I think that would be a useful statistic!

I can list some advantages to working on the Monday Thursday schedule:

  • There is no burn-out. This should be self-apparent.
  • If I drop a week, no big deal. Missing two days of posts rather than seven.
  • This benefit is given to the readers, too! If they miss a week, it is easy to catch up.
  • Blogging returns to being something of a ‘deadline’ rather than a schedule. In fact, I tend to think of Monday as being more serious. I work towards Monday. And, if I have extra things, I may save them for a Thursday.
  • Showing restraint improves the quality of individual posts. There are many times that I’ve crafted a post and then deleted it. I only have a few posts per week - I don’t want to spend them senselessly. (Of course, quality is subjective - I speak only of my own sense of quality.)
  • In the long-term, I can sustain this for decades if I decide to. That can’t be said for daily posting. (Barring personal disaster or loss of interest.)
  • The focus becomes less on winning a single viral post to cash in on. It’s more about finding friends and trying to find useful stuff to bring value to my regular reader’s lives.

There are some difficulties:

  • Ensuring people know the schedule. But I feel like this just becomes apparent over time.
  • Some weeks I feel like posting A LOT more. I’ve always been glad I restrained.
  • Of course, it is incompatible with social media. I don’t get much contact through Twitter, for instance.

Aside from my own experiences, though, I can point to many other blogs that are following sleepy schedules: Nadia Eghbal, who posts every month or two with great effect. Subpixel.space, similar schedule, also high quality. Ribbonfarm seems to be twice-a-week, but has a strong base of readers. things magazine, once or twice per week. Phil Gyford posts maybe a bit more frequently than that. And Andy Baio, who blogs infrequently, but does so when he really has something that you don’t want to miss, is possibly the most important blog to me of all-time.

I don’t want to come off as too negative about frequent posting. There are many people that I enjoy following who post constantly, at all hours of the day. And it suits their personality. It’s cool that they have a lot to say.

For anyone else who may want to pull off a low-key blog (or TiddlyWiki[2]), I wrote this to encourage you! It has worked well for me - and I’m satisfied that all is not lost.

And I will gladly link to you if you make an attempt at this. Come on - let me link to you. I do a monthly hrefhunt, listing blogs and websites that I discover. It’s well worth it, to discover obscure or neglected blogs that haven’t fit into social media’s rapid pacing.

Perhaps we can get away from that in 2020.


  1. I don’t think ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ are useful metrics — see, for instance, Instagram star with 3 million followers can’t sell 36 t-shirts. ↩︎

  2. See sphygm.us. ↩︎

  1. @kicks I say, blog like mad when the inspiration hits you, for as long as it hits you. Then hold back when you have nothing to say. Something like that.

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07 Dec 2019

Tiny Directory Forum

A new (but old-school) forum that’s my current hangout with other web directory nerds.

Don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m seeing a definite resurgence in directories. Like fingers.today (previously crocodile.is) - a home page / blog that is almost like viewing an unsecured open directory. Along similar lines, beautiful-company.com - I think Sphygmus dropped this link - click on the circle in the upper left. I’ve also mentioned Edwin Wenink’s site - but specifically check out the etc section.

So some of us in the burgeoning directory world - such as Brad Enslen of Indieseek and Joe Jenett of i.webthings - have been trying to get a community going, to talk about how to linkhunt in 2019 and to try to provide resources to people who want to start sly niche directories.

So yeah - Brad put up this basic forum - seems good. I’ve been on for a week or two and the discussion has been great so far. It has an RSS feed for new posts. I guess we could do this kind of thing with Indieweb.xyz, but I don’t know - maybe we don’t necessary want to clutter up our blogs with all of the messages related to this topic or maybe you don’t have an Indieweb endpoint to communicate through. (Come on by, say hi here.)

Although I will be trying to clean up and summarize some of the discoveries we make there - because this blog does cover directories about 30% of the time.

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12 Sep 2019

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

Blogchats

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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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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15 Aug 2019

adamcadre.ac

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 philosopher.life—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 sphygm.us. Or the erratic page-filling that is happening on chameleon’s wiki. ↩︎

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05 Jul 2019

Reply: The Purpose of a Website?

okaleniuk

[Referring to the website wordsandbuttons.online.] 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 philosopher.life, 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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05 Jun 2019

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17 May 2019

Mapping Imaginary Cities

Brilliant talk by @tripofmice: a good introduction to maps, but also, hey, how to generate a world.

This talk is ostensibly about cartography, but has a lot of curious details that I think are applicable to any kind of technology—but definitely very applicable to the Public Self-Modelers out there.

The speaker, Mouse Reeve, makes a comment (at 11’29") about maps as ‘models’:

I like to think of a map as a model. And the process of making a map is the process of modeling. And models are inherently incomplete. And this is really, really good because it means you can never finish. And, um, if we could make a model that perfectly represented what we were modeling, it would raise a lot of really disturbing philosophical and ethical questions also—in terms of pocket universes.

Emphasis mine. (Obviously—it’s so rare that one hears vocal italics.) This has really crystallized for me the new excitement over those of you out there who are starting to hypertext yourselves in TiddlyWikis. I have not been doing this—this blog is an old-fashioned style links-and-essays blog that just kind of acts as a portal between all of you. And part of my hang up has been what m.r. says: that a model is always incomplete. (🚬 C’est n’est pas une h0p3.)

But then comes the line: this is really, really good. And I find that I truly agree with this! And even the ending line suggests that a perfect equivalence in a model may not even be desirable! (Like: thank god that Magritte’s pipe is not just a pipe.)

m.r.'s website is here, which fits right in with my monthly href hunt. The generated maps are at unfamiliar.city.

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25 Jan 2019
26 Oct 2018

Satya Nadella ‘Reads’/‘Games’ Hacker News

From the Microsoft quarterly earnings conference call:

Satya Nadella (head of Microsoft): In fact, this morning, I was reading a news article in Hacker News[1], which is a community where we have been working hard to make sure that Azure is growing in popularity and I was pleasantly surprised to see that we have made a lot of progress in some sense that at least basically said that we are neck to neck with Amazon when it comes to even lead developers as represented in that community. So we have more work to do, but we are making progress on all dimensions.

Yeah, that’s not mere ‘reading’. There is a sense of a project to make ‘progress’ using this forum to steer people on the network toward Azure. And using their influential employees to influence the discussions.

I get that this is how society works: people influence each other and it behooves an organization to survive—by persuading people through any means it can.

No, wait—sorry. Not through ‘any’ means. For example, using subterfuge will often backfire. It is a dangerous technique, innit? Say I hired a bunch of eager fellas to go on news sites and forums, to bring up ‘Kicks Condor’—to link to me, fawn about me, endlessly recontextualize me—this is what is happening to you, this is why you are here, you are entrapped in my game—the unique ‘Kicks Condor’ brand with its iconic sign on a pixel chair. Have you heard? He’s rumbling up—he’s ascendant. There is a certain measurable mindshare now emerging on the flatscreens. Why, it’s more dazzling and varied than I myself had previously dictated to my personal autonomous pocket assistant! (Can this be happening to me??) Look at the pixel chair. You’ll see it again soon.

Question: does gaming the algorithm undermine the algorithm? Or is it the point of the algorithm? I’m asking all of you out there—is the algorithm designed to continue feeding us the same narrative that we are already upvoting? Or can the upvotes trend away?

Or are the upvotes just bullets in some game of Fortnite where Satya Nadella is spraying us from high above with his army of toadies that have spammed the server so that he is not just one squad—but all the squads logged in—at least for the next two minutes? Until Eric Schmidt logs on and mows down all the independent links running for cover?

I’m not sure if I can say that they are manipulating the feed—but having spent some time on the ‘new’ page, it only takes about three votes to push something toward the front page. If you have ten people doing this, then you are gaming the algo. Hobbyists won’t have this kind of paid workforce. And it’s interesting how openly he discusses molding that community as if it’s his medium.


  1. In case you haven’t heard of it Hacker News is a frumpy text-only link aggregator, a kind of proto-Reddit that has some homebrew charm along with straight-up startup culture hustling. ↩︎

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19 Oct 2018

Reply: Indieseek.xyz

Brad

How much is enough to start out with and how much further seeding just adds noise?

Brad’s directory is coming together!

Boy oh boy—this is great! So you have done a great job writing descriptions, trimming the list down to your essential set and coming up with a good category structure and all that. (And I mean: who am I to tell you this—you’re the directorymeister around here.)

I wish that /links was the home page. I like being right in the middle of things and that page has tons of useful information. However, I can see why you’d want to take the Google approach.

I also wonder about starring things. I like that it’s an invitation to participate. (As are ‘commenting’ and ‘reporting’.) I’ve left this kind of stuff out of my directory, in part because I’d rather that they create their own directories if they disagree. I think ‘reporting’ is a really cool idea—I can see the value there, possibly. With starring: how valuable has this kind of feature been to you in the past?

I really like that you’ve highlighted categories like ‘Fiction’ and ‘City Planning’—in a massive directory, these would be deeply buried, but they are key to your experience on the Web, so they are near the top. This is a really cool advantage to a smaller directory: finding niches that aren’t ever nearby—except here.

I think, at this point, you will learn what works and what doesn’t. I’m going to browse around and announce this on my site soon once I have a chance to take it in completely. Man—this is so fun!

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29 Sep 2018

Reply: The Narrows

h0p3

Very cool! My Recent pushes edited tiddlers to the top; I am not yet convinced your tool has the same behavior.

If it doesn’t, it’s a bug. I use the mtime of the post’s file to arrange these, so I cannot sneak around it. If you can give me an example of the difference, I would really like to know!

Thank you for the Robustness principle. It’s beautiful.

I’m glad you see it! I find it very profound—however, it is also somewhat cliché you could say, because it is only another sighting of ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ in the system. (I say ‘cliché’ not to belittle it, but to underscore how commonplace this strain of epiphany seems to be in the ‘eastern’ ways of thinking. I often think of the expression ‘if you meet the Buddha, kill him’—how do you both attempt to follow an archetype and to avoid archetyping that ideal too closely? But it does seem wise.)

I wonder if you can also help me find some philosophical discussion about dichotomies and tradeoffs. For example, I find both socialism and capitalism very appealing—I truly can’t say which I prefer. I like that the library exists; and I like shopping for boots. I know there is a lot of negativity around this dualism (“this isn’t free-market capitalism”/“socialism hasn’t really been tried”) except that there seems to be respect for Denmark which has both free markets and high taxes, which certainly looks dualist (pluralist?—not sure the proper term) to me.

So I wonder where in literature I might look for more about living/thinking pluralistically. My friends seem to see it as being hedonist, non-committal, ‘lukewarm’ and impossible. Well, yes—but it’s much more than that. It’s pluralism after all.

I want to apologize for my constant ninja-edits. I have a thousand evolving things to say to you, and my drafts are just never done (as you have probably noticed).

Change anything you want! You have my full trust. We are in a process of mental and lingual refinement. The tradeoff here is that I won’t be responding too closely to your words. I am going to not pick them apart—unless I want to tease out more understand or to encourage further ninja-edits.

Had to look that song and lyrics up. I keep an almost full size oil canvas reproduction of The Starry Night about four feet to the left of my desk.

Yeah I guess now that I think about it, my thoughts were more on the painting than the song. But both are very intertwined for me. I had an uncle die of AIDS in his twenties. I was in third grade at the time. He was the rare uncle who is a friend—and he was a sensitive and stylish person. He was a painter and this was his favorite painting. My first experience crying emotively was when this painting and the song came on to the screen during a school assembly in fifth grade.

I felt that he was ‘trapped’ in the painting—I looked into it and saw him. And also did not see him—just the dark, brilliant world without him. So he was also ‘free’ in the painting. I knew of Van Gogh’s troubled end and this added to the swirling spectre. It was as if the appearance on the screen of this image was an appearance of them—an impressive outward display of their presence in my soul. (Of course this was just a random slide that was thrown in there—I knew that even at the time, but it was as striking as if their photographs had been displayed.)

I am not asking the same from you, since I consider it unreasonable to ask it of you (but not of myself here). I hope to ‘go with the flow’ of your conversational style.

This, along with the coincidence of the painting by your desk, is immense common ground for us! The principle of “my rules don’t apply to you, but you are free to look through them” (is this accurate?) seems woven throughout your wiki and I try to adhere to this perspective, too.

I’m considering adding compression internal to TW, but it violates my goal of keeping the source maximally readable. Unless I go for some alternative non-TW oriented loader, I’m like 99% sure I’m just going to stick to gzip and make people patiently wait (probably good for bouncing impatient trolls as well).

So you don’t want to separate the wiki into separate pages? Or can’t? I thought there was a way of splitting tiddlers up. Or exporting or something.

The monolithic file is the central issue I’d think—it contains an opaque filesystem. This is convenient for a lot of reasons: editing, transporting, searching.

I have started a prototype for an idea I have—I will report back to you next week with some results. If I can somehow get access to some snapshots (say the last month’s worth)—that would be very useful.

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25 Sep 2018

Sphygmus

Another promising introspective TiddlyWiki appears on the horizon of the network.

What excites me about sphygmus is: first, that she’s confronting this fear and we get to see what happens. (We out on the Old Web all have to confront this: that we might not find anyone here without the self-advertising infrastructure that the big networks have.) It’s uncertain why we are reading each other, why we are writing, who we are—there is a lot of uncertainty that I’m feeling, too, and I have this strange belief that someone else might have the answer. (In a way, OF COURSE SOMEONE ELSE HAS THE ANSWER—you out there are the ones who choose to ‘ignore’ or ‘respect’ or ‘dismiss’. Or to ‘jump right in’.)

But I am running a blog with comments—it’s easier to get feedback. A TiddlyWiki is genuinely on someone else’s turf. It is AT ODDS with the Indieweb. The ‘Indieweb’ is attempting to solve personal interaction with additional technology. But a TiddlyWiki like this is attempting to solve personal interaction by—well, it’s not trying to solve personal interaction. It expects you to learn its system and, in a way, the technology works against you, because it has a learning curve.

In other words, it’s all on us to understand and read each other. (The entire Twitter network is built on the idea that you can take someone’s 140 characters on its own, out of any context, as an independent statement—there is no need to read back on the history there. But with a TiddlyWiki, the system requires you to dig—it is possibly the literal opposite.)

We must bear in mind that, fundamentally, there’s no such thing as color; in fact, there’s no such thing as a face, because until the light hits it, it is nonexistent. After all, one of the first things I learned in the School of Art was that there is no such thing as a line; there’s only the light and the shade.

— Alfred Hitchcock

On the Web, we are the light to each other’s faces.

Aesthetics In The Info

Second, sphygmus’ entrance adds to our midst another person really thinking about how visual style is a non-verbal form of personality. That it can augment our discussion—maybe even be necessary!

I don’t think of it as part of my artistic practice but I think you are right to see a connection. My relationship with my digital spaces is deeply connected to what suits my visual eye - I’m on an absurdly out-dated version of Chrome simply because I hate the way the new Material Design Chrome looks […]

She has already made the innovation of posting all of her material in her own dark-gray-and-cornflower-blue CSS styling. When she posts h0p3’s replies, however, they are in his dark black style and narrow monospace font. (See the screenshot above.) This conjures him in that moment when we read!! (I address this in Things We Left in the Old Web, where one of my criticisms of RSS is that it cruelly strips our words of their coloring. Cruel!)

So: I am interested in how we can cement this. I want to style my h0p3 quotes and my sphygmus quotes similarly—can we come to an accord on how to do this so that I can give YOU control over how these things look? Perhaps we could share CSS fragments on our respective sites?

Documents Are Us

I covered this a bit in Static: the Gathering, that this HTML might actually be us, might be a model of our soul. But, let’s tilt on the topic a bit.

We are all more or less public figures, it’s only the number of spectators that varies.

— Jose Saramago, The Double

So, yeah, thirdly—what h0p3 and sphygmus are tackling is an approach for being a fully exposed, well, let’s just say: a human. A wikified human. There have been attempts to do this in video or blog form—to keep the camera on a person. In this case, though, the camera feels to be focused on the mind, the internal dialogue. (In h0p3’s case: the family meetings, the link histories, the organizational workings—all the behind-the-scenes discussion—maybe it’s ALL behind-the-scenes discussion. I confess that I’ve also started a personal TiddlyWiki to store all these same kinds of materials.)

So, what is ‘oversharing’ and what is just ‘sharing’? Oh, GENEROUS ‘SHARING’—what would that be? What is ‘public’ and what is designated ‘private’? Are these pointless distinctions?

Might it be time to pause all the needless labelling of information and to just read?

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21 Sep 2018

Reply: Steelwomaning

The text of my second private reply to h0p3’s ‘hyperconversations’—I am saving my own copy of this here after many days have passed.

(This letter was previously sent privately to h0p3, since I felt that I had bungled up a productive discussion. Now that I can see the overall waveform of our discussion, I think there are many things I’m learning about conversing through writing and reading—in fact, I really think my failures so far are more the failures of input rather than out!—and this immense dialogue is becoming a satisfying start to all the dialogues I would love to have with more of you out there!)

(Apologies in advance that I do so much talking here—I swear I’ll never write anything this long again. No one should feel compelled to read this. I will shut up and go back to silent, stoic reading for the rest of the weekend.)

Hi h0p3-

So I am going to try to rewind and do as you say: to take a better shot at addressing your part of our ‘hyperconversation’. I am sending you this as a private letter so that you can censor it if you like. I feel like I am starting to border on a troll of some type 😉 and feel like the nature of my blog would turn this into a type of ‘broadcast’ that can still receive ‘thumbs up’ and such sordid things. (Ed.: You can comment on this post, but ‘likes’ and ‘mentions’ are disabled to respect this sentiment!)

I hope I can preface these remarks—even if it seems like a bad idea, because it can perceived as changing the topic, taking time away from the ‘meat’. I will get to the topic(s)—but I wonder if some other items might be more pressing (might even be the ‘meat’) because it seems they might be preventing the main discussion from occurring fruitfully.

On Being ‘Intellectual’

Ok, so stepping back—I’ve jumped headlong into a discussion with you. (And might I just add: this is a rare opportunity for me and I feel fortunate to have the chance to converse—for you to respect my communications enough that you will give them the thought you have. I have NEVER had the opportunity to correspond in a strictly written way with anyone ever before—to attempt to come to an understanding with them—hmm, well, maybe once, but not to this extent—and this whole time I am wondering if the medium has its limits. I guess this is where Socrates chimes in. Well, of course it does—but I am probably the largest of those limitations—and that feels good. Perhaps my ability to write will strain under the pressure, perhaps yours—and it requires even more of our abilities to read and internalize each other’s writings! For this reason, I would like the conversation to remain written and for us to find some kind of resolution this way.)

This correspondence has had about three major episodes from each of us. I saw this encounter as a foray into a ‘pen pal’ type thing—which is to say: ‘informal’, ‘inconsequential’ and ‘probably frivolous’. (I hope you will let me say all three of those things in good ways, very good ways. I also admire that you are reaching out through/with your autism to speak with me—I do worry about aggravating your own pain, of putting you under unreasonable expectations of my own and of not seeing the full picture of ‘you’—who you are past ‘h0p3’. But only if you need it—I would rather just see ‘h0p3’ for now—this creation is by design and I intend to take it in.) I don’t feel that I want to ‘wrestle’ —I want to ‘pen pal’. After all, this is a work of fiction. The contents of this letter are products of the reader’s imagination. This letter is for entertainment purposes only. Although the form of this letter is autobiographical, it is not. Although this letter may appear authentic, it is not. What appears to be ‘wrestling’ may actually be a new type of sophisticated ‘pal’ engagement maneuver.

Now, I am not an intellectual by any stretch—I have idea no who Kierkegaard is and I can’t keep Kant and Hume straight. I do read a lot—fiction by a wide margin. I do read Vygotsky and Piaget and, sometimes, Jung. Of all the philosophers, I am most fond of Socrates—and feel a brotherhood with you through him. But the writers that I spend my time on are fiction writers - Albert ‘Vigoleis’ Thelen is someone I speak to in my mind very often. To call out to him: ‘Vigoleis’ when I see his place in the world. Denton Welch and Robert Walser are like this for me. But even these closest—I cannot speak intellectually about them, only romantically.

So yes—I think you want to have a philosophical debate with me, but I am not equipped to do it. And I wonder if it is possible at all. I can’t read all those guys and read your wiki and read the things I want to read and pursue my current ambitions. I don’t think you want to have this discussion unless I am an equipped intellectual. We are both trying to sing and shatter a glass—but your voice is trained. So while I might still be the one to shatter the glass here and there, it’s a hell of a lot more painful having to hear my notes along the way. So this is my opening question: am I misrepresenting what this discussion is—and what do you want out of it? (In a way, I feel I can almost ‘steel’ this because of the statement: “There is a lack of fairness in the dialectic here; I’ve had way more practice thinking about the nitty-gritty, and I must be extremely cautious not to assume others can or will see what I do.”—I agree with this and I feel like I am only fleshing it out further above. And this: “I can’t see far enough to know if he can see what I’m saying (which is a fairly technical claim in moral philosophy).”—I don’t see it, I had no idea there was some central claim to ‘hyperconversations’—I thought it was a series of different claims with some riddles mixed in—which is, I think, where the central claim is nestled? “I am failing this man.”—Dude, I don’t rely on you—I have my own system of living—I’m not just an imbalanced pinball lost in your machine! 😄)

And this: “Hedonic Kierkegaardian Aestheticism is here; it’s inaccurately factored into the eudaimonic calculation.” I’m not going to even try to parse this—if I tried, my reaction would be: I don’t feel like my aestheticism is hedonic at all, but quite virtuous! So I think your phrase is going to be misunderstood by me and I am just going to sound ridiculous. 😄 Perhaps this comment is not meant for me but for the audience, k0sh3k included. (Hey kid! If you exist! Hey! I /will/ you to exist for a single ‘Hey there!’)

Some classic Romanticism in here. Reminds me of that fighting phrase: “Brawl a boxer, box a brawler.” I’ve seen this shift many times against my arguments.

I do think we are paired as boxer vs brawler. That was what I trying to say when listing out some of our opposing polarities—you are codifying me in your statement above as well—no harm, just part of trying to understand someone. I don’t feel that you are degenerate and I don’t think you (yet) believe that I am either. I don’t sense that you are trying to assimilate everyone as boxers. But I do think that not being a boxer would forfeit my scrappy end of the ‘wrestle’ or ‘debate’ side and leave us to the ‘pen pal’ aspect strictly.

This is not a small aspect: while I have not been charitable with argumentation, I believe that I have been charitable with the effect you’ve had on my own work and charitable with the credit I give you for stirring up my inventive mind and stimulating me to materialize it. This will last beyond an argument.

For my part: I am not as interested in some of the topics we’re touching on: stuff like emotion/reason (I have spent almost no time thinking about my arguments there, I am going off half-cocked and I do appreciate/embrace your sayings), what ‘the good’ is (I am trying to figure out what the thrust of our discussion even is, man I can’t even begin to sort that out) and even T42T—I still think they are all very worthy topics, but I don’t think I’m your foil on those. I agree with you that I should be required to defend my ethics—but I also don’t have a list on hand like you do—and it’s changing too much for me to even know how to nail it down. I like the part which explores the texture of our online avatars, but even there—I think I need to sit in the presence of them longer before trying to mouth off about them.

On ‘Sadness’

I am going to try to make this quick and to the point—which isn’t “you can’t make me sad” but that “momentary sadness doesn’t register as much when there are more permanent sorrow in place” something like that.

But what’s so bad about this sorrow anyway? A woman crossed the street yesterday, waving to me, so I stood and waited for her. She said she knew someone—a name I recognized. She was pleasant and warm to talk to, so we talked. She said that her son had been murdered many years ago. If you just listened to her for five minutes, you would have thought she was insane. Very pleasant and insane. In a good way, a very good way. A whirlwind of details about trajectories and cover-ups. But if you listened for an hour, you could finally she her—and her sorrow. It wasn’t disgusting or repulsive—but familiar and natural. Just a sorrow—as plain as a pleasantness.

I wanted to show her something in the yard, so I motioned for her to cross the gutter—which is quite wide and was rushing with water—it’s more of a canal than a gutter. But her legs were short and she said, “Oh I don’t know.” I held out my hand and she made a move to try to cross. I realized that she was wearing flip-flops and trying to avoid some spiky weeds. I held out both hands—I probably shouldn’t have tried to persuade her—I don’t know, I began to pull her across and she kind of panicked and made a squeal! She stumbled over—she made it—and we laughed out of relief and I felt stubborn, but it was good to move abruptly from sorrow to laughter like that. Like we had come up for air. We are still in the ocean but we are in the air too.

And I wouldn’t like it if you held back some criticism. I should love to be rebuked! When you are in the freezing ocean, it is probably the best time to hear that you have made a grammatical mistake. What a helpful distraction that could be! And you may never forget to make it again.

And children, when they are rebuked—so often they simply drop their head down and say slowly, ‘Ohhh kay…’ For me, this embodies such an ideal—first, to acknowledge that criticism DOES sting, direct criticism truly can, possibly always does, it makes us drop our heads to hear—and, secondly, to simply ‘ack’ the criticism with no further commentary or defense. Perhaps to go without defense would be too submissive—on the other hand, can we endure any criticism as adults? Any?

I probably am doing my own sidestepping and defensiveness of criticism in this letter. I do know I am better to just drop my head and say slowly, ‘Ohhh kay…’

All of this context to say: I realize you aren’t making fun of me at all here, and I appreciate that very much.

Yes, but if we can find a way to truly make fun of each other—wouldn’t that be such a grand achievement?

On ‘Hyperconversations’

The shadow over our eyes is a serious problem: I believe it costs us the ability to be cognitively and emotionally vulnerable (even to ourselves). We don’t really get to know each other when we are engaged in good opsec (that’s kind of the point). The public/private adversarial tension does seem contradictory, but I hope to find a middle way; surely there is a linear logical framework from which geometric social cooperation can arise (I must hope).

Continued here:

You can always doubt, and you can only ever improve your Bayesian odds. The inductive step in trust is a leap of faith in Humanity, in The Other, sir. Building trust and real relationships is exactly why I reveal myself to you and everyone else. I want people to see how I conduct myself and my relationships across the board.

And then:

With diamond balls, I really aim to be practically transparent in my practice of saying what I mean and meaning what I say directly because my integrity is at stake.

And also:

We are each cameras, in a sense. I think of this wiki as an external, reifying camera of my internal camera states. I do hope to wield both wisely. I do not think I morally own either of them all the way down except insofar as I am constituted by (exist as an extension or instantiation of) The Moral Law.

If I were to try to identify this central ‘claim’ you are making and to ‘steel’ it: You feel that true and real relationships demand radical transparency. More than that, you see it as a virtue—embodying bravery, integrity and honesty. You see it as a direct solution to prevailing mistrust and misunderstanding in the world. You model this behavior for others.

To you, h0p3, this has a blissful and fortuitous collaboration with modern surveillance. You aren’t saying, “What do I have to hide?” It seems that you are saying, “You can’t make me hide.” And I do not think you do not see it as the ‘correct’ choice—you seem to acknowledge that it is a trade-off—but that you are willing to pay the price. But you believe you have sorted it out: you do believe that the reward will always be greater than the price.

Am I in the ballpark? I don’t really know how to do this!

To this, I have no response. I can only hang my head and say slowly, “Ok Mister H…”

I felt no need to respond to that claim after the letter—I found it well-reasoned! I did wonder how much of it is grounded in the tech ideals of ‘open source’ and ‘gratis’/‘libre’—I’ve had other tech friends dabble in transparency (sharing bank account info publicly, cataloging life activity publicly.) I stand by what I said:

The remarkable thing about your wiki is that you have turned your camera on. In fact, your wiki is defiantly personal—I think it goes beyond a mere camera. Your history. Your conversations. Your letter to your parents. Your thoughts about people—about me. A person can turn on a camera and never say these things. You are on to something. I have no desire to talk you out of it.

I realize now that saying nothing is a failure. You need an ‘ack’. Even if it is a repetition.

I think there is something unanswered here, though: Do you have any adaptations to ‘Gentle ClearNet Doxxing’ after the events of the last month? I have wondered if you were going to write more about this—maybe I missed it. To stand by a rule too doggedly is to be—well—dogmatic. Or has the rule functioned properly? (On the other hand, I might also aspire to be dogmatic about FOSS - just for myself and not for anyone else.) Feel free to just link me to the correct answers that I cannot seem to locate.

Ok, that is the end of this letter. I ran across the “business card” page on your wiki while researching “transparency” and loved it.

-kicks

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Static: the Gathering

Thinking harder about the surprising return of static HTML.

Static website and blog generators continue to be a very solid and surprising undercurrent out there. What could be more kitschy on the Web than hand-rolled HTML? It must be the hipsters; must be the fusty graybeards. Oh, it is—but we’re also talking about the most ubiquitous file format in the world here.

Popular staticgens sit atop the millions of repositories on Github: Jekyll (#71 with 35.5k stars—above Bitcoin), Next.js (#98 with 29.3k stars, just above Rust), Hugo (#118 with 28.9k stars). This part of the software world has its own focused directories[1] and there is constant innovation—such as this week’s Vapid[2] beta and the recent Cabal[3].

And I keep seeing comments like this:

I recently completed a pretty fun little website for the U.S. freight rail industry using Hugo […] It will soon replace an aging version of the site that was built with Sitecore CMS, .NET, and SQL Server.[4]

Yes, it’s gotten to the point that some out there are creating read-only web APIs (kind of like websites used by machines to communicate between each other)—yes, you heard that right![5]

Clearly there are some obvious practical benefits to static websites, which are listed time and again:

Webmonkey logo

Fast.
Web servers can put up static HTML with lightning speed. Thus you can endure a sudden viral rash of readers, no problem.

Cheap.
While static HTML might require more disk space than an equivalent dynamic site—although this is arguable, since there is less software to install along with it—it requires fewer CPU and memory resources. You can put your site up on Amazon S3 for pennies. Or even Neocities or Github Pages for free.

Security.
With no server-side code running, this closes the attack vector for things like SQL injection attacks.

Of course, everything is a tradeoff—and I’m sure you are conjuring up an argument that one simply couldn’t write an Uber competitor in static HTML. But even THAT has become possible! The recent release of the Beaker Browser has seen the appearance of a Twitter clone (called Fritter[6]), which is written ENTIRELY IN DUN-DUN STATIC JS AND H.T.M.L!!

Many think the Beaker Browser is all about the ‘decentralized Web’. Yeah, uh, in part. Sure, there are many that want this ‘d-web’—I imagine there is some crossover with the groups that want grassroots, localized mesh networks—for political reasons, speech reasons, maybe Mozilla wants a new buzzword, maybe out of idealism or (justified!) paranoia. And maybe it’s for real.

Screenshot of Beaker's editor.

No, my friends, Beaker marks a return of the possibility of a read-write Web. (I believe this idea took a step back in 2004 when Netscape took Composer out of its browser—which at that time was a ‘suite’ you could use to write HTML as well as read it.) Pictured above, I am editing the source code of my site right from the browser—but this is miniscule compared to what Beaker can do[7]. (Including Beaker’s dead-simple “Make an editable copy”—a button that appears in the address bar of any ‘dat’ website you visit.)

(And, yes, Twitter has given you read-write 140 chars. Facebook gave a read-write width of 476 pixels across—along with a vague restriction to height. And Reddit gave you a read-write social pastebin in gray-on-white-with-a-little-blue[8]. Beaker looks to me like read-write full stop.)

Now look—I couldn’t care less how you choose to write your mobile amateur Karaoke platform[9], what languages or what spicy styles. But for personal people of the Web—the bloggers, the hobbyists, the newbs still out there, the NETIZENS BAAAHAHAHAHHAAA!—yeah, no srsly, let’s be srs, I think there are even more compelling reason for you.

The Web is the Machine

Broken software is a massive problem. Wordpress can go down—an upgrade can botch it, a plugin can get hacked, a plugin can run slow, it can get overloaded. Will your Ghost installation still run in ten years? Twenty years?

Google's 503 error.

Dynamic sites seem to need a ‘stack’ of software and stacks do fall over. And restacking—reinstalling software on a new server can be time-consuming. One day that software simply won’t work. And, while ‘staticgens’ can break as well, it’s not quite a ‘stack’.

And, really, it may not matter at that point: the ‘staticgens’ do leave you with the static HTML.

The more interesting question is: how long will the web platform live on for? How long will HTML and JavaScript stay on? They have shown remarkable resilience and backward compatibility. I spend a lot of time surfing the Old Web and it’s most often Flash that is broken—while even some of the oldest, most convuluted stuff is exactly as it was intended.

Static HTML is truly portable and can be perfectly preserved in the vault. Often we now think of it simply as a transitory snapshot between screen states. Stop to think of its value as a rich document format—perhaps you might begin to think of its broken links as a glaring weakness—but those are only the absolute ones, the many more relative links continue to function no matter where it goes!

And, if there were more static HTML sites out there, isn’t it possible that we would find less of the broken absolutes?

Furthermore, since static HTML is so perfectly amenable to the decentralized Web—isn’t it possible that those absolute links could become UNBREAKABLE out there??

Your Death

A friend recently discovered a Russian tortoise—it was initially taken to the Wildlife Service out of suspicion that it was an endangered Desert tortoise. But I think its four toes were the giveaway. (This turtle is surprisingly speedy and energetic might I add. I often couldn’t see it directly, but I observed the rustling of the ivy as it crawled a hundred yards over the space of—what seemed like—minutes.)

This friend remarked that the tortoise may outlive him. A common lifespan for the Russian is fifty years—but could go to even 100! (Yes, this is unlikely, but hyperbole is great fun in casual mode.)

This brought on a quote I recently read from Gabriel Blackwell:

In a story called “Web Mind #3,” computer scientist Rudy Rucker writes, “To some extent, an author’s collected works comprise an attempt to model his or her mind.” Those writings are like a “personal encyclopedia,” he says; they need structure as much as they need preservation. He thus invented the “lifebox,” a device that “uses hypertext links to hook together everything you tell it.” No writing required. “The lifebox is almost like a simulation of you,” Rucker says, in that “your eventual audience can interact with your stories, interrupting and asking questions.”

— p113, Madeleine E

An aside to regular readers: Hell—this sounds like philosopher.life! And this has very much been a theme in our conversations, with this line bubbling up from the recent Hyperconversations letter:

I do not consider myself my wiki, but I think it represents me strongly. Further, I think my wiki and I are highly integrated. I think it’s an evolving external representation of the internal (think Kantian epistemology) representations of myself to which I attend. It’s a model of a model, and it’s guaranteed to be flawed, imho (perhaps I cannot answer the question for you because I consider it equivalent to resolving the fundamental question of philosophy).

God, I’ve done a bang-up job here. I don’t think I can find a better argument for static HTML than: it might actually be serializing YOU! 😘

I am tempted to end there, except that I didn’t come here to write some passionate screed that ultimately comes off as HTML dogmatism. I don’t care to say that static HTML is the ultimate solution, that it’s where things are heading and that it is the very brick of Xanadu.

I think where I stand is this: I want my personal thoughts and writings to land in static HTML. And, if I’m using some variant (such as Markdown or TiddlyWiki), I still need to always keep a copy in said format. And I hope that tools will improve in working with static HTML.

And I think I also tilt more toward ‘static’ when a new thing comes along. Take ActivityPub: I am not likely to advocate it until it is useful to static HTML. If it seems to take personal users away from ‘static’ into some other infostorage—what for? I like that Webmention.io has brought dynamism to static—I use the service for receiving comments on static essays like these.

To me, it recalls the robustness principle:

Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others.

In turn, recalling the software talk Functional Core, Imperative Shell—its idea that the inner workings of a construct must be sound and impervious; the exterior can be interchangable armor, disposable and adapted over time. (To bring Magic: the Gathering fully into this—this is our ‘prison deck’.)

Static within; dynamic without. Yin and yang. (But I call Yin!)


  1. Certainly there is an ‘awesome’. But also custom directories, such as staticgen.com and ssg. Beyond that, there are loads of ‘10 best staticgens’ articles on the webdev blogs. ↩︎

  2. A tool that builds a dashboard from static HTML pages. (Think of it: HTML is the database schema??) Anyway: vapid.com. ↩︎

  3. A chat platform built on static files. I do consider this to be in the neighborhood—it can die and still exist as a static archive. See the repo. ↩︎

  4. Original comment here by slathrop, July 2018. ↩︎

  5. Build a JSON API with Hugo’s Custom Output Formats, April 2018. ↩︎

  6. If you’re in Beaker: dat://fritter.hashbase.io. ↩︎

  7. The DatArchive API, which any website can leverage if it runs inside of Beaker, allows you to edit any website that you own FROM that same website. A very rudimentary example would be dead-lite. ↩︎

  8. The “gray on white with a little blue” phenomenon is covered in further detail at Things We Left in the Old Web. ↩︎

  9. My apologies—I am pretty glued to this right now. Finally there is a whole radio station devoted to the musical stylings of off-key ten-year-olds and very earnest, nasally Sinatras. ↩︎

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23 Aug 2018

Ticker Tape Parade

It’s good to be a little ‘river’ of thoughts—apart from the estuaries.

Inspired by the concept of Ripped Sheets of Paper, I began to see a new blog design in my mind that departed from all the current trends. (Related: Things We Left in the Old Web.)

The large majority of blogs and social media feeds out there are:

  • Highly rigid visually—a linear list of paragraphs.
  • Mostly blue and white (with a little gray.)
  • Bland. Often all posts are structured virtually the same, unless there are images.
  • Alike. There are common templates.

So, yeah, no wonder the Web has deteriorated! We just don’t care. It’s understandable—we experimented for a good ten or twenty years. I guess that’s why I wanted this site to border on bizarre—to try to reach for the other extreme without simply aspiring to brutalism.

To show that leaving social media can free you to build your own special place on the web. I have no reason to scream and war here in order to stand apart.

Exaggerated Importance

When I started laying out the main ‘river’ of strips on my various feed pages—here’s my August archive, for instance—I started to want the different posts to have a greater impact on the page based on what they were.

Screenshot of the new home page.

A tweet-style note thing should be tiny. It’s a mere thought.

A reply to someone might be longer, depending on the quality of the ideas within it.

And the long essays take a great length of time to craft—they should have the marquee.

It began to remind me of the aging ‘tag cloud’. Except that I couldn’t stand tag clouds because the small text in the cloud was always too small! And they also became stale—they always use the same layout. (It would be interesting to rethink the tag cloud—maybe with this ‘river’ in mind!)

It’s All There

Even though these ‘river’-style feeds are slender and light on metadata—for instance, the ‘river’ is very light on date and tagging info—it’s all there. All the metadata and post content is in the HTML. This is so that I can pop up the full post immediately. But also: that stuff is the microformats!

Why bother with microformats? I remember this technology coming out like a decade ago and—it went nowhere!

But, no, they are actually coming into stride. They allow me to syndicate and reply on micro.blog without leaving my site. I can reply to all my webfriends in like fashion. They have added a lot to blogging in these times—look up ‘Indieweb’.

Honestly, they make this blog worth using. For me. I feel like the design should be for you; the semantic structure is for me.

This lead to a happy coalescing of the design and the structure: I could load individual posts on a windowing layer over the home page. This is a kickback to the old DHTML windowing sites of yesteryear. (And, in part, inspired by the zine at whimsy.space.)


Screenshot of right-clicking on a post.

What’s more—nothing (except the archives dropdown, I should say) is broken if Javascript is off. You can still center-click on the square blog post cards to launch them in a tab. URLs in the browser should line up properly without filling your history with crap.

I do have some new kinds of post layouts that will be cropping up here are there—such as how this article is made of individual tiles. But it all flattens to simple HTML where I need it to.

One of the struggles of the modern Indieweb is to have uniqueness and flair without sacrificing function. I have to do a lot of customization to integrate with Twitter, micro.blog and RSS. But I hope you will not need to work around me. So that remains to be seen.

At any rate: thankyou! So many of you that I correspond with offered juicy conversations that stimulated this new design. My muse has always been Life Itself. The experiences and conversations all around --> inspiration! I feel fortunate to any eyes that wipe across my sentences from time to time.

Time to get back to linking to you.

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27 Jul 2018

Reply: The Future of Blog Snoop

Brad Enslen

I’m hitting a fork in the road with this site and the experiment of using a blog as a directory of blogs. […] I don’t think using a blog for this is as good as using a real web directory script, but if a blog is all you have it can be pressed into this use.

I think the idea behind Blog Snoop is solid—I mean you’re just talking about trying to define the edges of a certain community. I’m sufficiently convinced now (between Reddit wikis and ‘awesome lists’) that directories still serve this purpose. Find The Others.

I guess part of the problem is—what is the community? Bloggers? The Indieweb? The subset of the Indieweb that wants to talk about discovery? (Search, directories, blogrolls, etc.) I think you are shooting for larger than the Indieweb—bloggers, in general, right? That operate independently? So, do Medium blogs count?

Ok, so, the usability of the directory is central. This makes sense: a directory is a practical instrument. It needs to be elegant and tight. Using a blog as a directory is very novel and very convenient—and it can work! But I think the directory itself needs to be incredibly sweet to use: full of great stuff, well-organized and fun to use, if possible. I think you have to really want to visit the directory regularly.

Google won by distilling everything down to one box. It was actually fun to use Google because you could start typing and it would try to finish your sentence for you. Which I actually think more people enjoyed for its novelty than its usefulness. And it was useful, too!

So a few starter suggestions:

  • The whole tag cloud is off to the side, as if it’s not important.
  • I can’t see some of the words in the tag cloud, they are too small.
  • The biggest words in the tag cloud are words like “General” and “Internet” which are almost non-categories because they apply to all blogs.
  • It’s not clear how to submit my own blog unless I dig. People should really be encouraged to participate.
  • The text is large, so lots of scrolling is involved. I think this is what the ‘awesome lists’ are doing right. It’s also what Chris Aldrich is doing so well with his blogroll.
  • A dense list, like the one Chris has, also feels more active, for some reason.
  • The thing you are doing perfectly, though, is the care in the descriptions. This is actually the most important thing once the directory is usable—and you have that already.

I am working on a personal directory right now, so my attention is there. But maybe if we keep talking about this, we can figure it out. Don’t give up—just keep talking and refining.

You’ve actually given me a great idea (I think it might be ‘great’, who knows) for Indieweb.xyz. I think I’m going to make a directory of the sites that submit to it. And it will also show the sub (‘tag’) that they most commonly submit to. It would be a simple change and might help me gradually collect links to blogs that I can go through over time.

Good luck, Brad! These tiny efforts may seem small in the face of massive social empires out there, but I think there are many people who are (or will) participate if they can just be found.

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PLUNDER THE ARCHIVES

This page is also at kickscofbk2xcp5g.onion and on dat://.

MOVING ALONG LET'S SEE MY FAVORITE PLACES I NO LONGER LINK TO ANYTHING THATS VERY FAMOUS

philosopher.life, the 'wiki'/'avatar'/'life' of h0p3. serious rabbithole. k0sh3k. j3d1h. luxb0x.

nathalie lawhead of so many good things, where does one begin. T, U, I.

waxy is back at it!

surfpals: nadia eghbal, subpixel.space (toby), things by j, gyford, also joe jenett (of linkport), brad enslen (of indieseek), 'web curios' at imperica.

an eye on: ᛝ ᛝ ᛝ — lucid. consummate waifuist chameleon. jacky.wtf, fogknife, tiv.today, j.greg, box vox, whimsy.space, caesar naples.

indieweb: .xyz, eli, c.rwr, boffosocko.

nostalgia: geocities.institute, bad cmd, ~jonbell.

true hackers: ccc.de, fffff.at, voja antonić, cnlohr, esoteric.codes.

chips: zeptobars, scargill, 41j.

dwm, julia, tridactyl these are things you'll want on linux.

neil c very famous but should be a world icon.

the world or cate le bon you pick.

sammyclassicsonicfan the original teen rage adventure.

innovation.isotropic.org probly the best carl chudyk game.

and opinionated gamers for non-chudyk game analysis.

my twitter. my github. minor things.