Kicks Condor

#web

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.

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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21 Nov 2019

Reply: New Season of Indieseek.xyz

Brad

My break from Indieseek.xyz, both the directory and the blog was intentional.

👍 I did this too. A directory is a long game - I think you can safely roll-up changes every 3-6 months. Cool that you got some submissions!

I think what we need more than a forum - is an easy way for people to make little directories. I mean even just link lists would be a start.

  1. I know a programmer who 15 years ago made a PHP program that that made hosted directories. I don’t think it ever got out of beta but it was stable and I tested it by making a little directory on it and running it for a few years. All one had to do was register and you got a subdomain directory with a simple control panel for adding categories and sites. A lot like WordPress.com only for directories. It worked fine.

    It checked all the buttons: no script to install, easy to sign up, easy to make links and easy to use. But it wasn’t pretty and I don’t think he ever figured out how to monetize it.

  2. Kicks, I remembered the name of the directory hosting: Hyperlinkd.com. Archive capture at the link.

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The Fraidycat Concept

Fraidycat 1.0.4 is out today in the Firefox and Chrome stores.

Fraidycat 1.0.4 is out - and things are rolling. Much appreciation to all of those who are pitching in ideas on the issues page. Particularly Bauke and Joshua C. Newton - who brought up bugs that I was able to fix in this release. (And apologies about all the noise on this project - I’m excited about it right now and, believe me, I have a variety of things planned over the next month that will take us away from Fraidycat.)

The new version is already approved in the Firefox Add-ons area. The Chrome (and Vivaldi/Brave) extension is still at 1.0.3, but should update automatically very soon. I’ve also started offering a plain zip that you can install manually using these instructions. Auto-updates will not be available - but you will also not be dependent on the official ‘stores’.

This video is also mirrored at archive.org.

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14 Nov 2019

Notes: We’ve Got Blog (2002)

What are blogs for? A trip to the beginning. The halcyon days of dot-com idealism and sheer shit-talking.

Here are my notes on the book We’ve Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture—a worn-out name, but a pretty decent compilation of blog posts from the early days of the phenomenon, mostly 1999-2002.

The articles in this collection are early reflections on the weblog phenomenon. Mature reflections do not exist: the weblog community coalesced only three years ago. Not even the pioneers—some of whom contributed to this anthology—know where weblogs are going, or what place they will eventually fill on the World Wide Web.

— p. xii, Rebecca Blood

The word ‘weblog’ was coined in 1997 - but I think 1999 was officially the first big year for blogging, with both LiveJournal and Blogger appearing. Somehow, wanting to reach back to that era now that 20 years has passed - to attempt to uncover what went so wrong between then and now - I checked out this book from the library on an impulse. It seems to capture the spirit of that age in such a remarkable way - like that jar of deer meat I recently found in my brother-in-law’s basement labelled: '97. (“Oh, it’s still good,” he said.)

And considering Rebecca’s point above: 20 years later, do ‘mature’ reflections now exist? Is it all over and we’re far beyond reflecting? Has the blog just been a tulpa for some ancient essence that we’ll never capture?

Time to reflect.

For the first fifty pages of this, I felt nothing but self-loathing. Blogging suddenly seemed like the most disgusting thing to do - to aimlessly, carelessly write endlessly about my tastes and interests. While I quite like Rebecca Blood’s analysis in the early chapters, this quote chilled me:

As [the blogger] enunciates his opinions daily, this new awareness of his inner life may develop into a trust in his own perspective. His own reactions - to a poem, to other people, and, yes, to the media - will carry more weight with him. Accustomed to expressing his thoughts on his website, he will be able to more fully articulate his opinions to himself and others. He will become impatient with waiting to see what others think before he decides, and will begin to act in accordance with his inner voice instead. Ideally, he will become less reflexive and more reflective, and find his own opinions and ideas worthy of serious consideration.

— p. 14, Rebecca Blood, “Weblogs: A History and Perspective”

Perhaps Rebecca could really use the confidence boost - and that seems entirely wholesome - but I personally do not need to take myself more seriously. I can definitely appreciate improving my articulation - yes definitely, definitely - but becoming more ‘impatient’ and more opinionated - yet somehow more ‘reflective’? More weighty? I don’t want this to happen… (I think I’d like to remain aware that I’m a perfectly worthless dipshit.)

Any idea that these days of blogging were somehow more idyllic, pleasant or enviable quickly goes out the window in this book. The shit-talking is near-epic! Names are named—denounced and disgraced as ruining the form—mostly deriding “A-list” bloggers, but also decrying “the unbearable incestuousness of blogging.” Seems like the confirmation I’ve needed that mastering hypertext is going to be a formidable challenge for us - one that they were only just beginning to embark on and, therefore, were well over their heads in.

However, so far I’ve found a surprising amount to glom on to. These early bloggers definitely had a whiff of what was to come (partly because many had recently left the experience of Usenet) and I think I’m coming away hugely crystallized. Unexpected!!

So, How Useful Are Blogs?

The juiciest quote, for me, so far is this one:

‘Accept that the Web ultimately overwhelms all attempts to order it, as for now it seems we must, and you accept that the delicate thread of a personal point of view is often as not your most reliable guide through the chaos. The brittle logic of the hierarchical index has its indispensable uses, of course, as has the crude brute strength of the search engine. But when their limits are reached (and they always are), only the discriminating force of sensibility will do - and the more richly expressed the sensibility, the better.’

“Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Man” by Julian Dibbell (2000)

This might be a little self-affirming, because it seems to vindicate the web directory (e.g. my l’il href.cool) but what it really seems to be describing is the blog as our premiere discovery mechanism.[1] This must have been a common view at the time, considering this earlier quote:

[…] the weblog movement will begin to realize its true power, a more widely distributed version of what the Open Directory and other collaborative web directories have promised but only minimally delivered.

— p. 40, Brad L. Graham, “Why I Weblog”

In hindsight, this feels like hyperbole - the finished product of a blog seems (to me) less navigable than a directory, although both are usually stale by then. But I think this has played out, to some degree, especially if I think of how useful a good music blog can be when attempting to discover new music. (Though I think a good music podcast or YouTube review can be equally good.)

Hmm. A medium really is only as good as the artist makes of it. It’s not that hypertext is tapping into us. We’re pushing it wherever we want, right?

Defensive Blogging

We are being pummeled by a deluge of data and unless we create time and spaces in which to reflect, we will be left with only our reactions. I strongly believe in the power of weblogs to transform both writers and readers from “audience” to “public” and from “consumer” to “creator.”

— p. 16, Rebecca Blood, “Weblogs: A History and Perspective”

I want to draw a comparison here between this quote and (apologies) Fortnite Battle Royale. Putting aside everything else about Fortnite, it tacked on an interesting innovation: the ability to build structures (in a Minecraft-inspired fashion) with a traditional (third-person) shooter.

Most people seemed to scoff at this blend—as if it were some kind of mere monstrosity of buzzwords. No, this ability to build boxes around yourself or staircases to scale mountains added a much-needed defensive strategy to shooter games, aside from stuff like holing-up or strafing. What’s more: the building strategy can also be seen as ‘shooting’ defenses—you are adding to the environment—it is a constructive, perhaps aggressive, kind of defense.[2]

That’s what seems to resonate with bloggers: not the publication of a first-person journal but the chain of interaction it often ignites.

— p. 170, JD Lasica, “Blogging as a Form of Journalism”

This chain of interaction can manifest as a scorching backdraft. And that is not usually what you are trying to ignite. We like to think that we are kicking off a fantastic, fulfilling discussion that moves the world forward—but the chain is well outside of our control.

(My initial thoughts to ‘controlling’ such a thing is… defensive in the Fortnite sense. Many hypertext writers now build layers around their writing. Nadia Eghbal has direct interaction through Twitter, indirect interaction through polished essays and a newsletter—but also, concealed interaction through an unadvertised notes page that is not easily syndicated or followed. Similarly, representing the public-self modelers—h0p3 has a home page entry point that is carefully curated and groomed, but which is several layers up from a complete chaos of link dumps, raw drafts and random introspections—all of which you can only sort through by learning his curious conventions. You are on his turf. These layers run a spectrum of accessibility—there is always a learning curve before you hit the bottom. You start with a doorway before entering a maze.)

Final Takeaways

I do think what this has left me with so far is two very clear impressions:

  • I still think blogging is a great way to shed light on undiscovered wonderful things. (Other touted aspects - such as ‘giving me a voice’ or ‘replacing old media’ - don’t particularly juice me up personally. Maybe I’m being too hasty here, though. It’s a luxury to publish freely with no editorial staff to shut me down.)
  • Curating blog posts into a finalized book is pretty cool. This reinforces my conclusion on my Hypertexting study: that a permanent ‘body’ of text can be extracted from the ephemera of assorted links and notes that go into blogging. I think it will be useful to, at some point, roll up a bunch of old posts (perhaps delete them) once I’ve compiled a nice piece of writing that sums it all up. (Perhaps this is just a stupid realization about ‘finishing’ something - gah, sorry!)[3]

So, while certain writers in this book seemed to look at the blog as a fully-realized literature format - and perhaps it can be that to some - for me, I see it as a conduit between writings and creations - a place where some of my own words fester and pile up, as a kind of byproduct.

Lastly, there’s no question that we are far from a mature view of hypertext. I feel that much of the last two decades has been spent just trying to emotionally process what our open exposure on the Internet means. These bloggers lived during an early expansion when the population was much smaller. The extreme growth (along with stuff like constant mobile connections and the Snowden discoveries) has transformed the Internet into a very public, chaotic place.

Developing a blog/wiki/etc demands writing, editing, publishing and even relationship chops. I’m not even touching the journalism, entrepreneurial and community-building aspects that this book focuses on at times. Trying to do this in a disciplined way is difficult in the changing landscape - partly because so much of our discussion necessarily revolves around examining that landscape.

Appendix: Raw Notes

p. 5. “[so-and-so] grouped a bunch of webloggers into high school cliques and called me a jock” the shit-talking begins, this is comfortable, nothing has changed.

p. 5. “Dave decided I must be ‘brain-damaged’ because I used frames.” first thought: this is worthy of publication? second thought: oh, wait, these are raw blog posts republished. third thought: 😎

Tracked down the Dave Winer post myself, to ensure ‘brain-damaged’ was the actual wording. (It was.) Quote just below it:

Dad says I shouldn’t criticize other people on my site. He’s right, in theory. But in practice, what I don’t like is just as much a part of my personality as what I do like.

— Kate Adams

(Personal aside: I once criticized the cover of a Philip K. Dick book publicly on the Internet. The only response my post receive was from the illustrator that had designed the cover. She basically said: “Thanks, that hurt.” You might think she had no business replying to my post and should have just taken the criticism. But she didn’t like my criticism - which is “just as much a part of her personality” as anything else, I suppose.)

p. 9. Good Rebecca Blood quote: “These weblogs provide a valuable filtering function for their readers. The Web has been, in effect, pre-surfed for them.”

p. 11. There seems to be a recurring theme that Blogger made blogging “too easy” by just having a single textbox to post in. Didn’t realize it was that much of a progenitor to Twitter.

p. 12. Filters as their own thing: “I really wish there were another term to describe the filter-style weblog, one that would easily distinguish it from the blog.”

(No indication of the tools available to the ‘filter’ blog are given - except that it has access to other filter blogs. Also, there are about five different blog types alluded to - none of them matter now.)

p. 18. The author seems to say that communities, in order to survive, must stay small - and credits The WELL with the best approach. I don’t know The WELL - but it’s still here today. Wonder if it is considered intact…

p. 20. The term ‘webpools’ is used here several times. There are many, many outdated terms and awkward language choices in these essays. These are really cool to me because the language was in such flux - and it reminds me of how repulsive the word ‘blog’ was at first. (I invent crappy words, too - guilty.)

p. 27. Having a good ‘link checker’ is mentioned. Interesting that this technology is nowhere to be seen now. (Href.cool has a simple, dumb one I made - but it’s proven essential.)

p. 31. Some discussion about crediting sources. The discussion is basically “this is a virtuous thing to do” vs. “it clutters up the blog”. This misses the point (imho) - the point is to aid discovering related blogs.

p. 32. This is so funny: “But what about a weblog for the homemaker?”

p. 32. “Wouldn’t it be great if all the neurosurgeons in the world had one place to go for up-to-date information about the numerous changes in their field?” No. Hard no.

p. 35. The need for one’s own domain name. I used to think this wasn’t very important. Starting to come around.

p. 37. “fram” - friend spam. This was nostalgic - ahh right, basically, e-mail forwards were the Facebook of that era. Again, recurring theme of: people need to become better, more disciplined independent writers and publishers. That is what the Web asks of us.

p. 43. omgz, a spoof of “we didn’t start the fire” in the middle of the book. “Wetlog, BrainLog, NeoFlux, and Stuffed Dog…” this is amaaazing.

p. 49. beebo.org?? wtf, this is the second time this has come up. “a blog best-seller list”? The captures on Internet Archive do not explain this well enough for me.

p. 51. It’s becoming clear that Blogger was the poster child of its time. Strangely, people don’t really trace the lineage of Twitter or Tumblr back to it - nor does it come up in the Friendster, Myspace, Facebook dynasty. It’s just kind of this useful website that appeared and is still here. Strangely, Google has managed to keep it low-key, ad-less, customizable - seems like a completely ignored utility. There even seems to be a “New Blogger” dashboard for mobile. I wonder what keeps this thing going?

p. 52. Fears about blogging becoming “too easy” - leading to “blogorrhea”. Yeah, that panned out.

p. 54. The Bicycle story. This seems like some kind of a precious take on memes. Or, alternatively, a satire on a template blog post. The self-loathing returns.

p. 59. Damn, this is serious shit-talking!! (Like on the level of Bernhard’s The Woodcutters.) I need to talk about this in more detail later.

p. 68. Blogs as “exteriorized psychology”. Sure. But no. Hard no.

p. 70. Where did Jorn Barger go? Seems like perception that he was antisemitic turned against him? Nah, it’s got to just be burn out or something. Everyone should retreat from the pulpit at some point. (Actually, not sure why I’m asking where he is - most of these blogs are vacated. I think people didn’t want out of blogging what it ended up giving them. There was definitely something of a gold rush.)

p. 76. This Julian Dibbell has some good stuff. “Does it even count as irony that Barger’s rigorously unfiltered perspective is perhaps as good a filter as can be found for the welter of the Web?” This is a good question! And it really confuses the topic of what makes a good algorithm or a good editor. The discussion kind of stops at: it’s a sensibility.

p. 78. Blogger was a one-man business in 2001 after initially having a team. It really squeaked by. This is cool. It actually survived.

p. 82. “I do think there was a blog concept. Then there were a couple blog concepts. And now we’re getting closer to a blog concept again.” Lol. I think we’re back to a couple blog concepts again.

p. 87. Comment about 2001’s “p2p hype” drowning out interest in blogs. It’s interesting that blockchain took that space for awhile. And it’s interesting that some p2p+blog projects have a niche community now. It’s also interesting that those were seen as competing at the time - I can see how people would think that, but those were clearly two different crowds.

p. 89-98. No real interest in this chapter (on the Kaycee Nicole Hoax) - although veracity of information continues to be a big topic. Was a topic in the radio and newspaper eras, too.

p. 103. “[Blogs are] nothing new, they’re not changing the world with their content, they’re not going to make anyone huge amounts of money, but they are a form of self-expression and community which others enjoy reading.” (Finally, some tempered enthusiasm that’s grounded in reality. No one in this book even considers that blogs might have been a fad - which is a reasonable appraisal given that blogs have almost vanished within the past ten years.)

p. 112-115. An actual essay on link-hunting! It’s rather thin, but it’s a good start. Most of the sources listed in this article are gone now. (Except mailing lists - though they aren’t nearly as prevalent.)

p. 124. “linkslut” (Sick, this is me.)

p. 131. “… most popular weblogs function to serve up the piddle and crap the authors either don’t have time for, don’t believe worth taking any further, or perhaps are testing the waters for.” (So: people know they are writing for free and withhold their best work. Really makes me grateful for insanely high-quality essayists out there like Nadia or Toby.)

p. 138. Kottke is a serious target in this book. He is quoted here, talking about his laptop bag. The writer then basically says, “See, this is the epitome of decadent navel-gazing.”

p. 141. This Blogma 2001 stuff hasn’t aged well. The satire is just thinly veiled bile. Which is not a problem. It’s just that the target of this piece (“A-list” bloggers) is not interesting. Maybe it’s too easy. (Like a satire on modern influencers - who cares.)

p. 144. In a section on blogging tips, called “Anonymous Is Okay.” ‘If you are being anonymous give some hints about you from time to time. “I am a fat boy!”’ 🤣

p. 152. This has really gone downhill in the last few chapters. I’m now in an essay on how to get noticed. “Also, when sending email, try to be funny” - oh boy. And yet, this is exactly what you expect in a book titled We’ve Got Blog from 2002. (This essay does highlight that self-promotion was very awkward even then.)

p. 155. “Once in a while remind yourself that you are not only as good as your last update.” (Based.)

p. 164. Referring to a time in the late 90s: “Then reality set in and those individual voices became lost in the ether as a million businesses lumbered onto the cyberspace stage, newspapers clumsily grasped at viable online business models, and a handful of giant corporations made the Web safe for snoozing.” (Had to do a double-take on this one! Were they talking about 2011?)

p. 166. Reference to Paul Andrews’ “Who Are Your Gatekeepers?” Sounds worth reading.

p. 166. “Where the weblog changes the nature of ‘news’ is in the migration of information from the personal to the public.” (Premonitions of Snowden. Regardless of whether you think he was successful, in this respect he certainly was.)

p. 167. The rest of the essays in this book are by amateurs, so they look at editors at entirely superfluous. This section is written by journalists, so they seem to see it just as a tradeoff. Yeah, for sure. (As a reader, it certainly seems valuable to evaluate online writing on a spectrum of heavily-edited and fact-checked vs. off-the-cuff - depending on what you are getting out of it.)

p. 170. “One of the most interesting things about blogs is how often they’ve made me change my mind about issues. There’s something about the medium that lets people share opinions in a less judgemental way than when you interact with people in the real world.” (Eh? This seems spurious. The medium is still just the written word. I think what you’re trying to articulate is that you never quite know what you’re going to end up reading online - so it’s possible to be exposed to arguments you haven’t encountered. Hence all the talk about people being accidentally radicalized politically.)

p. 170. “That’s what seems to resonate with bloggers: not the publication of a first-person journal but the chain of interaction it often ignites.” (Yes. Hard yes. This explains the migration to social media. Quicker, faster, immedate sparks of interaction.) (It also occured to me at this point that ‘likes’ and such are analagous to ‘hit counters’ from this age.)

p. 171. The editorial process produces writing that is “limp, lifeless, sterile, and homogenized”; blogs produce words that are “impressionistic, telegraphic, raw, honest, individualistic, highly opinionated and passionate, often striking an emotional chord.” (I really don’t like that this paints a picture that writing just got better all of the sudden because of blogs.)

p. 192-193. During an essay which completely demolishes the war blogs of the time, Tim Cavanaugh quotes a full page-and-a-half of shameless gladhanding. ("…the consistently correct Moira Breen." “Mark Steyn—this guy is so good!” “…Natalija Radic really hit them where it hurts.”) (It goes on and on. This seems similar to current questions of ‘virtual signaling’. Which I don’t have a problem with generally. Really: what should a personal signal? I think the problem here is that the concept of a war blogger is gross. So perhaps it is the incompatibility we see between a person and their signal.)

p. 195. “For all the bitching they log about the mainstream media, none of the bloggers are actually cruising the streets of Peshawar or Aden or Mogadishu. Thus, they’re wholly dependent upon that very same mainstream media.” (Well, the mainstream will always exist in some way - as a baseline of culture, as a central point of reference, like Magnetic North. Therefore, we’re dependent on it. And we move ourselves around it by defining our various loves and hatreds of it. And, in this case, I think it should still be safely used as a resource. Also, ‘it’ is actually a massive, pluralistic, infinite, incongruous organism.)

p. 228. ICQ as “I seek you.” Durrrr. I never caught this! Wowwww. 🔫


  1. Definitely in the way Joe Jennett or Eli Mellen does it—and also h0p3’s link logs. I think tumblelogs and Delicious innovated in this department. ↩︎

  2. Many shooters allow you to project or throw force field areas. So this concept has been around, to some degree. I don’t know the lineage—I’m not a gamer. ↩︎

  3. A few days after writing this, Nadia posted “Reimagining the PhD”, which casts her last five years as a kind of self-styled doctorate - which will now concluded with her publication of a book on her field of study. ‘Rolling up’ a blog into a formalized work is parallel. ↩︎

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12 Nov 2019

HrefHunt for Nov 2019

Promised I’d do this after getting Fraidycat out there. This regular feature is back: me hunting in the brambles, coming back up with 22 newly discovered blogs from a variety of sources, mainly 8 threads and blogrolls out there. Raw dump. Good quality.

Promised I’d do this after getting Fraidycat out there. This regular feature is back: me hunting in the brambles, coming back up with 22 newly discovered blogs from a variety of sources, mainly 8 threads and blogrolls out there. Raw dump. Good quality.

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11 Nov 2019

‘Accept that the Web ultimately overwhelms all attempts to order it, as for now it seems we must, and you accept that the delicate thread of a personal point of view is often as not your most reliable guide through the chaos. The brittle logic of the hierarchical index has its indispensable uses, of course, as has the crude brute strength of the search engine. But when their limits are reached (and they always are), only the discriminating force of sensibility will do - and the more richly expressed the sensibility, the better.’

“Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Man” by Julian Dibbell (2000)

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31 Oct 2019

youshouldhaveseenthis.com

Master list of essential links—seems pretty dead-on. Href.cool picks up where this left off.

This is GREG RUTTER’S DEFINITIVE LIST OF THE 99 THINGS YOU SHOULD HAVE ALREADY EXPERIENCED ON THE INTERNET UNLESS YOU’RE A LOSER OR OLD OR SOMETHING—a tiny directory, just a single page, a dump of links, mostly YouTube videos really. An additional 99 links continue at youshouldhavealsoseenthis.com—which fills in some missing pieces (‘i kiss you’, ze frank, etc.) It’s missing some things (‘hello my future girlfriend’, Real Ultimate Power) but perhaps those things haven’t aged well and this isn’t necessarily designed to be historical.

I wonder to what degree YouTube is synonymous with Internet culture out there. I can definitely see it—especially since ‘trololol’ and ‘double rainbow’ were pretty monumental for me—but some watershed stuff (like maybe when Cards Against Humanity gave away an island or the heyday of Chat Roulette) just can’t be captured in video like they existed on the network at the time.

Anyway—inspiration to anyone working on a directory. No need to overbuild. A raw link dump is just fine.

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29 Oct 2019

Broken Land Bar

Uhhh—ANSI graphics inspired cocktail menu?? This looks like a warez NFO.

This Brooklyn (pun?) bar—well, there’s not much to say, just go look: the olde BBS style boxes-and-lines art. This is actually really nice and clean, totally usable in its own way.

On top of this, tho—this is signed ‘jgs’. Are we talking Joan G. Stark??? (Aka Spunk. Also covered here.) I’ve gotta track her down.

Couple other related somewhat-campy genius sites:

  • AAAAN.NET: I don’t know, I feel like this site is my evil twin! Something feels related. The whole thing is so dry, but a crack-up. I love the checkbox on all the pages to return home.
  • twtxt.xyz: Federated plain-text messaging (via chameleon once again), how rad—I kind of want to make a mirror of this. (Oh, wait, raw source is here!)
  • ALL HAIL LORD ENKI: A home page can still just be a massive orange directory. Feels like I should make an href.cool theme that is like this.
  • SQL Murder Mystery: Yeah. Just submitted this to HN, since I generally don’t cover tech sites—but this is just a fun concept. SQL is, perhaps, already an escape room.

But if you’re just in the mood for more ASCII, here’s a little town to visit.

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04 Oct 2019

OMGLORD

Gabby Lord’s tiny directory—a perfect example of what (I feel) the Web needs!

Often when designers make home pages, they throw out a bunch of cool CSS tricks and aesthetic trimming and I celebrate that—but often there’s not much there in the way of interesting hypertext stuff. In this case, Gabby Lord’s OMGLORD has a nice minimalist design that frames a solid personal directory of links. There’s clearly been a lot of work done here—probably 200 links with nice descriptions and her own set of categories—stuff like ‘type foundries’ and ‘women in design’. I had a lot of fun coming up with categories for href.cool and I think she’s got a great organization here—also, starring her most recommended links is sweet.

I also think her City Maps category is reaaaally cool! She links to Google Maps that she’s personally annotated with sights, parks, coffee shops. These are directories within the directory. In addition, it’s a really nice way to build a directory of real-life stuff.

If you have any distaste for algorithmic recommendation engines or the commercialization of the Internet, I urge you to make a tiny directory! Gabby’s directory is just her favorite cool links—it’s not influenced by advertiser money or link popularity—except that perhaps Gabby discovered some of these through those kinds of avenues—these links have proved worthwhile to her over time. You may feel some resistance sifting through her pages, because why am I looking through a personal page when I could reading a slick major publication or wielding a powerful search engine but you will find things here directly, person-to-person, with no ulterior motives between you and these links.

It’s great, right?

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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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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.

@pfrazee:
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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25 Jun 2019

The Spartan Web

Href huntin’ by Andreas Zwinkau

A few days ago, there was a thread on the link-sharing site Lobste.rs 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 Webmention.io to load comments over JavaScript.

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12 Jun 2019

Reply: Further Infostrats

Ton Zijlstra

I have noticed that the news-feed type stream of posts of all feeds together carries echoes of the allergy I built up for my endless FB and Twitter streams.

Ok, thank you—I am with you on this as well. It sounds like we might be in agreement that there is much innovation to do in the spectrum of ‘feeds’/‘filters’. I think I also agree that needing access to the full post contents is useful—otherwise we end up with titles dominating and our filter weighs toward attractive headlines.

Re: ‘heat maps’—I’m reluctant to give any thought to the popularity of a writing. Yet, there’s no doubt that it’s important. If people are congregating, it’s worth knowing what the fuss is about. (I found your wonderful essay through Indienews—and this is a case where checking there has made it all worth it.) But I don’t want the zeitgeist jerking me around all day—think of it as a literal “ghost of The Now” pushing me around—I just want to peek at it usually and then move on to reading those things that are being overlooked.

I’m not saying you are wrong to prize that higher for yourself—I think perhaps the most innovative thing that can be done is to provide a variety of views on this filter—maybe RSS readers have just been too narrow by making themselves simple ‘inbox’ clones. We are trying to wrangle a lot of data here; we might need something quite configurable to do this task. (Which is contrary to my own reader—which I have been designing to be extremely naive.)

This is getting away from the juiciest part of your article, though: that there are serious human skills to build up. Reading and filtering. (I like your tag: ‘infostrats’.) But your mention of ‘heat maps’, for instance, reveals that our tools can improve with respect to enhancing our ‘infostrats’. Thank you for the further thoughts, Ton!

UPDATE: Okay, after looking through your archives, I can see that this reply was hasty. It’s amusing to me that you actually cover much of this in your discussions about ‘small tech’. Your essays over the years are a formidable work. I find myself very much in agreement as I read!

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Reply: Feed Reading By Social Distance

Ton Zijlstra

My filtering is not a stand alone thing in isolation, it is part of a network of filters, yours, mine, and other people’s. My output is based on filtered input, and that output ends up in other people’s filtered input.I treat blogging as thinking out loud and extending/building on other’s blogposts as conversation. Conversations that are distributed over multiple websites and over time, distributed conversations.

Cripes! I think this is the best essay I’ve read on how to read the Web. I agree with all of it.

I am definitely going to read this article several times before properly responding to it. But this is insanely rich stuff. I completely agree with and recognize the entire filtering strategy as my own. Feeling some kinship there.

As for the feed reader, it’s even worse: my own prototype (Fraidycat) is very close to what you describe. I assign feeds ‘importance’ levels that are much like ‘social distance’—I’m trying to decide if that term nails it for me. I’m not sure yet! It’s a good one, though.

I think the one area where I am not sure is still having to deal with a ‘news feed’-type stream of posts in each of those folders—is that your ideal way of reading? I feel like it focuses too much on recency. I’ve been enjoying just seeing a pulse of recent activity and then needing to visit their site to actually take it in (and perhaps explore further).

I definitely feel like the ‘social distance’ thing has helped crystallize why I put certain people into different ‘importances’—and it’s not just because they are actually more ‘important’ (like: to the universe). Anyway, brilliant!!!

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WWWTXT

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 thehmm.nl, which makes a case for anonymity on the Web. Thank you!

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05 Jun 2019

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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17 May 2019

things magazine

‘We’re the kind of haphazard store that’s run by a shopkeeper/hoarder who won’t necessarily sell you something if he doesn’t want to…’

Continuing the recent theme of Roundups, I couldn’t resist checking in with things magazine, which has been a rich source of wonderful linkdumps for nearly two decades. There is also a popular Tumblr attached and a print journal that predates the blog.

I make many efforts to contact folks doing good work, but often can’t get a reply. My blog is as underground as they get and I wonder if my e-mails or DMs ever go anywhere. I was so glad to have this conversation with J—and I still have many questions, so I hope our chats continue.

kicks: You’ve all been on the web since 2000. In a way, this isn’t that special—blogging exploded around this time. But you kept going. What keeps you blogging nineteen years later?

j: It’s a habit, as much as anything else (although the site is currently on one of its temporary hiatuses). One of the original motivations for things was as a store of interesting links that I could refer back to, relating to my interests and those of contributors to what was once a print magazine.

But our link style is quite obtuse and it doesn’t really work as a searchable archive. So it’s more of a collection of moods—both mine and the culture at large.

kicks: Ok, wait, go back—hiatus? Not sure what to make of that! Your post today, for example, is a mean one. A rich trove of links. That had to take some hunting. Overall, I feel like your writings this year have been quite regular.

j: Yes, today’s post was a bit of a surprise. I’ve been building up a collection of stuff these past few days. I had meant to stay away for longer. Maybe our conversation inspired me.

kicks: You recently (briefly) mentioned the disappearance of what was once a whole ‘blogosphere’, saying, “our own blogroll is home to many an abandoned project…”

Even the blogroll itself has disappeared out there. Why do you think that is? Perhaps because they became difficult to keep up? Perhaps there’s a sense that linking isn’t worth doing any more unless it’s as a ‘like’ or a ‘friend’?

j: There was definitely a circularity to early blogging, links that were shared and directions travelled together. One by one people have fallen by the wayside. I guess it’s all there in the Wayback Machine, but occasionally I find a ‘traditional’ style link blog that transcends the awful ‘like and subscribe’ ethos of today’s internet.

kicks: Mmm, ‘circularity’—yes, when you say this, I’m reminded of how certain links would dominate all the blogs simultaneously—like when The Grey Album came out. But I think ‘circularity’ applies also in describing the currents that were flowing between these blogs.

It was just easier to get caught up in hopping from blog to blog and finding dozens of fascinating links in a given day. And not just the links—the blogs themselves were often the most fascinating finds. (One blog I was really into at the time was Sharpeworld—a lot of transporting, campy videos and links.)

Actually, let’s do this—if you were to envision a new future for blogging, a kind of renaissance—what blogs (new or defunct) do you wish were at the heart of this?

j: I loved Sharpeworld too. And Haddock.org, diskant.net, ilike.org.uk, a.wholelottanothing.org, textism.com, slower.net, plasticbag.org and many more.

I don’t necessarily think there needs to be a new future for blogging though. The heyday has passed, that’s all. Most forms of creative expression in most mediums still exist somewhere for someone. They just have to adapt to a quieter world. I check our traffic most days, out of habit—it’s not terribly impressive by any standards and is on a long-term downward trend…

kicks: It seems like things has kept an eye on communities like MeFi, Delicious and Tumblr over the years. Reading through your blog, I was reminded of those years when mp3 blogs were exciting. These communities always seemed like little underground holes or out-of-the-way clubs. Even Tumblr and Blogspot felt that way, because blogs have a lot of individuality. Any new communities springing up that excite you?

j: Not so much Delicious, because I always felt a bit late to that party, but I’ve long loved MeFi (although that’s feeling a little rusty these days as well). Tumblr I have a lot of affection for, although I still haven’t really forgiven it for killing off fffffound. Communities have become necessarily more niche—a forum here, a forum there—but there’s nothing I’d consider sticking my head up above the parapet for.

kicks: You usually cover art—which still has an enormous presence on Tumblr and Twitter and such—but are ‘net.art’ type works dead? Perhaps this isn’t in your wheelhouse—are there still artists that work with hypertext or is that just the domain of designers now?

j: ‘Net.art’ was a diversion and still exists, but it feels like the interesting hypertext/digital work is coming out of graphic design these days, not fine art. Art has moved on, whereas the applied arts have a much greater sense and understanding of the power of nostalgia.

kicks: Do you mean like stuff you might find at CSS Design Awards? (Like, I think of Erik Bernacchi’s site or Lynn Fisher’s 2017 site.) I think I have a theory about this.

Which is: I think it’s so much tougher to be subversive with HTML now. Much of the original hypertext art messed with HTML frames and pop-up windows. I remember some of these sites spawning lots of little pop-up windows and orchestrating them. That would just never be possible today. Even autoplay and MIDI is restricted now.

j: In terms of art I take your point about it being tough to be subversive on the web—everyone’s online experiences are very tram-lined these days and any deviation from expected standards of usability are massively frowned upon—they’re either seen as offensive or even potentially dangerous so even the slightest hint of a browser or data hijack are right out the window. The stakes are much higher, I guess. Whatever, art moved on a while ago. The internet is a vessel but no longer a medium.

One of the ongoing motivations for things is the idea of mental as well as literal links, that sense of disparate things being related somehow, or a path leading somewhere. That was the big dream of hypertext, which was supposed to be a literary as well as an informational device.

The only place that still really works are sites like Wikipedia or TVTropes, where you still get that sense of burrowing down through layers and layers of information. I like this because it mirrors thought processes, and the way in which you have to mentally rewind to get back to where you started from. It drives me mad when publications add self-referential hyperlinks that simply send you around a closed loop.

Must check out TiddlyWiki…

kicks: things Magazine as a ‘personal store’ and a ‘habit’—these reasons for continuing have nothing to do with an audience. This is a very common theme among those that I find still hypertexting.

There is a growing number of TiddlyWiki users—like h0p3 at philosopher.life and Phil at youneedastereo.com, my friend sphygm.us—and it takes real work to sift through what they’re doing. They are dumping raw notes and drafts on the Web. In some way, I think this is related to the ‘obtuse’ linking style you use—dense, really requiring something of the reader.

Now that you are many years into your habit, how do you personally use this ‘store’?

j: Sadly it doesn’t really work like that. I never mastered the art of tagging stuff so the tools on the site are of limited use. There’s an archive page I built a decade ago when I knew how to do that sort of thing but it would be great to have some kind of random access button the front page. Right now, we’re the kind of haphazard store that’s run by a shopkeeper/hoarder who won’t necessarily sell you something if he doesn’t want to…

kicks: This is an amusing reply to me—I’m of two minds about seeing things as ‘haphazard’. It’s deceptive—the blog layout itself is quite the opposite—neat and crisp (and this is true of your Tumblr, too) and even a lot of the visuals that you snip are geometric. One’s perception immediately connects it with a museum or card catalog.

Yet, I see what you’re saying. You often will spill twenty different links in a paragraph, sometimes with very little assistance as to what is beneath that link. And I’ve seen posts where you dump a pile of random Tumblrs with short cryptic titles in a long run-on sentence. You switch topics mid-paragraph. A paragraph will go from a cohesive thought into a kind of, yes, ‘haphazard’ link poem.

To many of these TiddlyWiki users, the wiki acts as a model of themselves—not a straight download, of course, but a pretty thorough map of their thinking and personality. things is not this, perhaps more like a construct of Borges—where you have the external appearance of a literate, orderly castle which is much closer to a labyrinth of madness within. So, if this is my picture of things—how does this compare with your initial intentions for it? How does it compare with where you think it might end up as?

j: ‘Link Poem’ is a good description of what we do. things was always a work in progress, both as a magazine and then as a website. It has calcified slightly from its early days when we’d also post longer pieces by other people (they’re all buried there somewhere)—maybe that will one day return. There were never any intentions, save perhaps to boost the profile of the magazine and help sell copies (that didn’t work). Long term, I just don’t know.

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18 Apr 2019

HrefHunt! for April

A new dump of personal website links, discovered in the last month.

Don’t know if personal websites are catching on again or if it’s all about finding the right vein—I am getting more and more impressed with what I find, what people are up to. I’m also finding more and more that are already all hooked up to the IndieWeb.

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09 Apr 2019

Memory of the World

Makeshift librarians in the wild.

Some fantastic links littered the floor during yesterday’s discussion about the Web[1]—there is just always more to see, isn’t there? This blog catalogs various public library projects—including its own Library (136 kilobooks in size).

What’s fascinating is that their library is just one peer in a network of book-sharing peers. (It’s with great fanfare that I now affix my ‘leeching’ tag to this post!) Yes, you can use their let’s share books project to host your own lovely library of electronic books. (See the dropdown that says 20 librarians online on the right-hand side.)

Let's Share Books

The blog has a wealth of interesting posts, including a tutorial on How to Be(come) an Amateur Librarian. As h0p3 has said, quoting Francis Bacon: knowledge is power[2].


  1. From HN. ↩︎

  2. For real. ↩︎

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08 Apr 2019

Reply: Not Google’s Fault

revvx

It’s not Google’s fault this time.

The problem is that Blogspam is now a (legitimate) industry much bigger than Google can manage.

Google Search became a playground for marketing firms to dump content made by low-paid freelancers with algorithmically chosen keywords, links and headers. It’s SEO on large scale. Everything is monitored via analytics and automatically posted to Wordpress. Every time Google tweaks its algorithm to catch it, they’re able to A-B test and then change thousands of texts all at once.

Personal blogs can’t even dream about competing with that.

In fact, those companies are actively competing with personal blogs by themselves: via tools like SEMRush and social media monitoring, they know which blogs are trending and use their tools to produce copycat content re-written by freelancers and powered by their SEO machine.

I know a startup that is churning 10 thousand blogposts per day on clients blogs, each costing from 2 to 5 dollars for a freelancer to write according to algorithmically defined parameters.

Just wait until they get posts written via OpenAI-style machine learning: the quality will be even lower.

Not only that: there’s no need for black hat SEO anymore. Blogposts from random clients have links to others clients blogs, and it is algorithmically generated in order to maximize views and satisfy Google’s algorithm. They have a gigantic pool of seemingly unconnected blogs to link to, so why not use it.

The irony is that companies buy this kind of blogspam to skip paying AdSense. Why pay when you can get organic search results? So not only they’re damaging the usefulness of the SERP, they’re directly eating Google’s bottom line. These blogs also have ZERO paid advertising inside them, since they’re advertising themselves.

That’s the reason Bing, DuckDuckGo and Yandex still have “old web” results.

That puts Google in a very difficult position and IMO they’re not wrong to fight it.

Well, I disagree. (Though I think your record of things is correct!) Certainly if you look at this as a bot war then Google’s actions make sense: we need our bots to outsmart the ‘bots’ (human bots even!) that are writing blogs.

But look at it another way: you have lots of humans writing - and it’s all of varying quality. Why not let the humans decide what’s good? The early Web was curated by humans, who kept directories, Smart.com ‘expert’ pages, websites and blogrolls that tried to show where quality could be found. Google’s bot war (and the idea that Google is the sole authority on quality) eliminated these valuable resources as collateral damage.

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04 Apr 2019

Reply: W0T A C00L SITE

joe jenett

As I enter the site, its style/flavor immediately reminds me of another site I consider to be a classic.

Times like this, it sure pays to have your depth of knowing what’s out there—YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES is definitely a classic. One that you’ve now introduced me to. I finally took the time to browse it. What an inventive take on a blog. (Or on poetry?) Since 1997. My humblest thanks, Joe.

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Reply: Decentralizing Culture

h0p3

What do you think decentralizing power really means? We have to empathically give a shit about each other’s stories. […] My point of contention is not with the preservation of the underground (which I applaud) but a world in which the centralization of power is maintained through automation and dark UX so profound we can’t escape it.

You’re always asking me to clear up my terms—and I never do—but I’ll ask anyway: what do you mean by ‘power’? And what do you mean by ‘decentralizing power’? Because my first stab is that you’re talking about getting us back to local governments, tribes or something. The term ‘power’ gets bandied about—it’s the person with the money to hire, the person who radios the tanks when to roll in and when to back out, it’s the person with the megaphone.

I’m not really keyed in on ‘power’—I don’t see it as a kind of natural element. Seems more like it gets used to say: this, this is evil.

How to decentralize power? In a world of billions? Answering these questions is way beyond me. My wavelength is watching ‘humanity’—are we holding on to the transcendent ‘divinity’/‘shittiness’ of being human? Can we see this humanity in each other and at least allow the recognition of another human being to dawn on our faces?

I like to think of it as an ‘antimisanthrophic’ effort to at least establish a baseline sympathy or pity or some kind of comfort with our other peoples. Being a person is rough—we have no idea what’s going on here. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? (Perhaps I don’t take ‘power’ seriously enough. If none of us did—would it still be ‘power’?)

I will continue to argue for radical decentralization and worldclass p2p filtering. That is the only out, and the window may be closing. It can’t just be done by hand. We go down if the masses do.

Gah, I’m not convinced that technology has any answers! We can’t make some elaborate mousetrap that will enforce the life we want to live.

Of course, I’m not sure humans have any answers either! But I will say that talking to you and your family is the best technology I’ve encountered in a decade. Sure, I’m reliant on a sturdy free-enough technology that gets our words passed around. And those words are our plain humanity on the wire.

I am worried about some perhaps difficult to justify originality+authenticity moves, but the underground is not more real to me conceptually (though it can be more valid or valuable in the dialectic). I only care about “making it your own” insofar as it is justified to the particulars of your context. The Beautiful is not the overriding reason, but insofar as all other obligations are met, it is the last deciding force. The necessity of preserving freespeech and decentralizing power (including memetic distribution) comes long before The Beautiful though.

You’re not being cryptic—I just think sometimes your compression level is turned up on thoughts like these. I also have to add that I DO appreciate pop culture—I actually think it’s one of the most promising religions or symbolic systems we’ve ever developed. (And it’s REALLY tempting to demonize it, because it’s backup by capitalism—though I think that most people can appreciate the value of the engine—most people seem to agree that artists should be paid.)

Anyway, I don’t think mainstream culture is necessarily any less original or authentic than the underground. I just think that mainstream culture has become imbalanced—it has really captivated everyone this time, and fewer people seem to know how to escape it—which is the purpose of an ‘underground’, to me, and, of course, this is all just my perception.

I think—I think what happened was that, in the previous decade, the Internet gave the underground a tremendous breath of air. You basically had a network that was all underground—and I don’t just mean some kind of hip, stylized underground—I mean that, before the corporations figured out how to milk it, you would search for ‘donuts’ and be at someone’s uncle’s website.

There was no hunting around for rare vinyl or out-of-print Borges novels any more—the whole ‘underground’ world had doorways now. The underground became the mainstream culture and, yeah, we lost an actual underground. And I think there was a kind of crisis of overwhelm that mainstream culture had become so wide—like, “we need robots to sift through all of this.” There was a time when Twitter first came out that people were joking that it was just a bunch of people posting updates that they’re shitting right now. And now we just post those updates, no shame.

What, you want I should call you a selfish nihilist, a brainwashed individualist, an all-too-convenient emotivist, a shallow aesthete, a vapid internalist, a dark-triadic relativist, a deflecting anti-realist, a gas-lighting interlocutor, an actual waste of potential, and a gutless, wallowing, purposely purposeless sissy who hatlessly lacks the integrity to take the existential risk of committing themselves to an identity: i.e., the shadow of my enemy?

The part that actually got me here is the ‘shallow aesthete’ because it’s dead on—I think that I am on the prowl for this guy, but he’s out all the time, spray painting little soap bubbles on people’s suitcases.

I don’t think the point of a personal website is so much to design something pretty and ‘authentic’ (wtf?) or even ‘cool’. I think of it just as having a ‘home’—which seems eminently human to me—as opposed to ‘mechanical’ or ‘hive-minded’, such as being another tweet, lost in the feed.

While I hope for technologies like Dat (and have always loved peer-to-peer since the days of Freenet and Gnutella), the technology is so far from being adequate as to seem impossible at times. So, I’m quite happy getting anyone I can back into personal websites and wikis. Lately I’ve been thinking that ensuring a myriad of ISPs is a lot more important than peer-to-peer.

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The Roundups of SHACKLESHOTGUN

‘You need a human behind it.’

I was trying to explain how blogs could possibly still be relevant to a very young friend—and I was not convincing him.

At some point, though, it clicked—and he cried out, “SHACKLESHOTGUN!” And thereby I was introduced to the extensively researched and annotated link roundups on destinyroundup.com. I’m not a Destiny player—forgive my ignorance—still, I instantly could see that this crafty researcher’s work was intrepid and gifted. And then: wow, she made some time to talk to me!

kicks: Among gamers, Reddit has become a major hub for detailed discussion. I can see your round-ups existing on Reddit—why post them to a blog instead? Especially because Reddit subs are usually hostile to re-posting of blog posts.

shackleshotgun: My roundups existing (solely) on Reddit would go against one of the reasons the site was created in the first place. One purpose of it is being a tool for those who don’t like using Reddit, Twitter, or the official Bungie forums, something for people who want to see all info in one place. People don’t have time nor energy to rummage through three different social medias with awful user experience practices to see if an issue has been addressed by the developers.

Some people either can’t access the sites or don’t want to visit those sites, they just want to have a one stop shop.

Furthermore, info on Reddit and Twitter gets lost very easily because at their foundation those sites are very shoddily structured. Search bar doesn’t work on Twitter majority of the time (it omits results for unknown reasons), and on Reddit the search feature doesn’t look through comments (which is where majority of info is posted by the community managers and developers). Things on my site are archived, and not only that, they site focuses on one thing. You don’t need to dig through a lot of irrelevant info to find out if the developers have said something about a bug.

In order to retain my enjoyment of video games, I stay away from gaming communities. Reddit is quite the offender when it comes to toxicity and harbors content that doesn’t improve my day in the slightest so I don’t post at all on there for that very reason. I follow a very small circle of gaming people on Twitter, and that’s enough for me. People are free to link to my site on Reddit, though.[1]

kicks: Oh, for sure—those constant mobs in uproar.

But tell me—I wonder if you miss having access to Reddit comments on your posts. I would think that with your round-ups, most people would be very appreciative. Though perhaps some change to the game that week could spark tremendous arguments.

It looks like you prefer attaching a Twitter conversation to your posts. Was it a deliberate decision to have a blog without comments?

shackleshotgun: I don’t miss Reddit comments on my roundups because I never had them (as far as I know). If people have feedback for the site they are free to reach out to me either via DMs or email or mentioning me on Twitter.

It was a very deliberate choice to not have a comment section on the site. I didn’t see having a comment section as a productive thing for my site, and moderating it would be too time consuming. I don’t want people to stop visiting the site because of the comment section. Twitter makes for the best “comment section” because there the commenters can tag the developers/community managers with their thoughts on what was said.

kicks: Krikey. Comments as a liability! I have been lucky so far to have such good participation in my comments—but you clearly offer a perfectly useful read without them. I wonder if Twitter-just-for-comments is just a good way to treat Twitter in general.

The research you do on your round-ups is quite extensive—you must have fifty links you’re citing each week. Do you collect all of this on your own? Or do you take submissions through Twitter, Discord, Reddit and so on?

shackleshotgun: I do it all on my own. I have a system and a list of people to check in on each day. Once in a while people send me things I missed. I work very quickly so each summary takes max 30 mins out of my day. Having people submit things through avenues you’ve mentioned would take too long and make it a lot more arduous than it needs to be.

kicks: In a way, you operate kind of like a bot that is filtering through everything (from what I understand, you also try to snatch news out of podcast interviews) to distill it down to a summary. Our society has become accustomed to an algorithm doing this kind of job for us. However, your posts are written to be succinct and are very well-organized and laid out—with you writing and curating the heap of information.

shackleshotgun: I know that there have been some attempts to write bots for this kind of thing, but the developers often tweet/comment about things not related to the game. If you want to have a stream of info with only relevant things, you need a human behind it to filter it out.

kicks: This is a theme I keep seeing more and more. Humans as researchers and librarians on the Web, rather than just leaning back to let the bots passively feed us. I hope you enjoy doing the work—it might not be for everyone.

Did you have writing or research skills going into this project? Or did you just develop them as you went?

shackleshotgun: I didn’t have any related skills going into it. I studied programming and computer science for most of my life but had to go separate ways with that. When I started doing the roundups I was a Twitch streamer so I had a tiny audience on Twitter, and retweets from that audience helped lift the whole thing off. It’s been a fun learning experience.

kicks: Is it difficult for players out there to discover what you’re up to? In fact—any idea how most people find your blog?

shackleshotgun: Most people find me either via retweets of my summaries on Twitter, or YouTubers who have used my site for their videos shouting me out, or numerous podcasts I’ve been on.[2]

kicks: You started in a Google Doc—but moved to the blog last year. Was it difficult (technically) for you to start the blog? (Like: to get the design right, the layout and the organization.)

shackleshotgun: It was a relief to start the website, to be honest. By the time I started the website the google doc was a nightmare to use due to its size. There were some struggles with the site that are still ongoing.

Two big things that come to mind are the issues that come with any site that’s about archiving big quantities of information, and the design. Things are getting constantly patched in the game, which means info on the site becomes old, which in turn leads to a lot of issues in regards to organization. As for the design, I prefer usability and user experience over looks, but at the same time I want the site to look good and I still haven’t found that perfect mix between good design and great user experience.

So to summarize, starting it was very simple. Maintaining it is the actual challenge.


  1. See more in her community focus. ↩︎

  2. Some of her audio interviews can be found on DCP #95 or destinytruthcast #66. ↩︎

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03 Apr 2019

Reply: Losing Sites Not a Biggie

Nitin Khanna

So while yeah, it would suck if these cool/weird/fun sites disappear, and if YouTube one day loses all content from a period of time. But how much would it be a loss for civilization? The ideas would have been absorbed by the people of the time and the most important ones move on with artists and consumers in different ways.

A loss for civilization? Well, yeah, if you put it that way—civilization is going to roll on, regardless. I suppose you could say my effort is misplaced: perhaps better to work on helping our civilization survive, to live on, rather than trying to look to the past.

But, put another way: do I want to preserve a civilization that doesn’t embody any of the ideas that I care about? You’re probably right with your last line there—maybe I consider myself one who has ‘absorbed’ the ideas of my time and wants to ‘move on’ with those ideas in different ways. I can probably do this just fine without ready access to the source material—but I am glad that I was able to show Dont Look Back (1967) to a friend recently, rather than needing to just recount my recollection of it.

Definitely don’t want to save everything. Just some essential bits. And I shouldn’t try to be noble about it—just seems fun.

(And hey—kind of you to write up your thoughts, NK.)

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25 Mar 2019

luming hao

this is a very messy and unstructured inpsiring personal site no actualy it’s more of a collection of txts and links and sometimes it uses html other times it just uses a basoc json file no it’s a blog this person is also on other sites but i’m not going to tell you where becau i have just bought a lettuce form a door to door saleswoman tell me you wouldn’t focus on that if you were it too

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Personal Site Dump

Raw blog/website links to look through.

I’ve stumbled across the link above (a list of personal portfolios compiled by Martin Pitt) and, well, this has been a bit of a recent trend:

I am not going to look through the tech blogs, because I’m not as interested in those. (Except ones like ameyama.com which blends a greater portion of assorted personal thoughts alongside the tech tutorial-type things.)

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22 Mar 2019

Dat Rats

Idea: gang up to cache classic websites.

This is just a zygotic bit of a thought that I’ve been having. A group that would band together to share classic websites (likely on the ‘dat’ network), perhaps as if they were abandonware or out-of-print books. Many of the early net.art sites have been kept up because they have university support; many other sites disappear and simply don’t function on The Internet Archive.

(To illustrate how even a major art piece can go down, Pharrell’s 24 Hours of Happy interactive music video—yeah. that link is broken. You can see kind of see it on YouTube, but… the hypertext enthusiast in me wants to see it live on in its original form.)

Some sites that I really need to reconstruct:

  • Room of 1,000 Snakes. This game hasn’t been playable for a year or two now. I promised a friend I would work on this. (This is an issue with Unity Web Player going defunct.)

  • The Woodcutter. Careful, redirects. This site was a huge deal for me when I was younger. When I started href.cool, it was fine—and had been fine for like fifteen years!—and then it suddenly broke. I think it can be reconstructed from The Internet Archive.

  • Fly Guy. Moved to the App Store??

  • SARDINE MAGOZINE. Charlie is gone now—so I’ve already started doing this.

  • SMASH TV. This suddenly disappeared recently, but I think it’s been restored to YouTube now—I need my copies.

Sites I need to back up; feels like their day is nigh:

  • 1080plus. I’ve already been through losing this once.

  • Bear Stearns Bravo. Yeah, I think so. (This Is My Milwaukee could be recreated too.)

  • “Like a Rolling Stone.” Similar story to “24 Hours of Happy”—this kind of disappears for months at a time, but seems to work as of March 2019.

  • Frog Fractions. This one is probably too adored to disappear—still.

  • Everything in my Real/Person category. These personal pages can easily float away suddenly.

Of course, I’d love to get the point where I have a cached copy of everything at href.cool—there are several Tumblrs in there and Blogspots. I’m not as worried with those, because The Internet Archive does a fine job of keeping them relatively intact. But if a YouTube channel disappears, it’s gone to us.

Along similar lines, I have been trying to message the creators of the Byte app—not the hyped Vine 2, but the original Byte that was basically like an underground vaporwave social network from 2014-2016. I want to secure a dump of the public Bytes from that era. It was sick.

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11 Mar 2019

Fill Crawlers

Some notes on how I am using crawlers as I’m collecting links.

I’ve started dabbling in crawlers with two simple prototypes—these may not even be considered crawlers, but simple web fetchers or something like that—but I think of them as being (or becoming) fill crawlers. Most crawlers are out exploring the Web, discovering material and often categorizing them, given some kind of algorithm that determines relevancy. Here, I’m the one discovering and categorizing; the fill crawler only does the work of watching those pages, keeping me aware of other possibly relevant sites and notifying me when I need to update that link.

So, these crawlers are filling in the blanks for certain links. Filling in missing parts that aren’t editorial. This isn’t a crawler that is feeding the site’s visitors—it’s there for my utility.


For href.cool, the crawler isn’t really a crawler, given that it doesn’t do any exploring yet. It just updates screenshots, lets me know when links are broken and tracks changes over time. Eventually, I hope that it will keep snapshots of some of those pages and help me find neighboring links.

Anyway, I’ve had that crawler since the beginning and it will stay rather limited since it’s for personal use.


For indieweb.xyz, I’ve started a crawler that’s also for keeping the links updated. Yeah, I want to know when something is 404 and keep the comment counts updated. But I also want to get better comment counts by spidering out to see the links that are in the chain. This crawler allows indieweb.xyz to stay updated even if Webmentions don’t continue to come in from that link.

I think the thing that excites me the most about this crawler is that I’d like it to start understanding hypertext beyond the Indieweb. I’m hoping it can begin to index TiddlyWikis or dat:// links, so that they can participate. I’d really like TiddlyWiki users to have more options to broadcast that doesn’t require plugins or much effort—they should remain focused on writing.

Both of these projects are focused on trying to help the remaining denizens of straight-up Web hypertext find each other, without it functioning like another social network that becomes the center of attention. To me, rather than giving the crawler the power to filter and sort all these writings, it simply acts as a voracious reader that looks for key signifier that all of normal readers/linkers are looking for anyway. (Such as links in a comment chain or tags that reveal categories.)


That’s all I have to say at the moment. I mostly put this out here so that people out there will know how these sites work—and to connect with other people (like Brad Enslen and Joe Jennett) who are doing cataloging work, to keep that discussion going.

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14 Dec 2018

Reply: The Web Finally Feels New Again

Joe Jenett

I recently came across a Pinboard user’s note on a bookmark: “Overly commercial tone but looks useful.” That simple note made me think about the web and linking and what it all means to me.

(Joe’s full article is here.)

Yes, here we are again—I think what you’re saying is that even a single-line annotation of a link, even just a few words of human curation do wonders when you’re out discovering the world. (Perhaps even more than book recommendations—where we know that at least we can rely on certain publishers and editors to vet their publications—I’m a big fan of the Dalkey Archive[1], for instance—but we have no idea the quality of writings out on the Internet at large and are desperately reliant on these annotations in the field.)

Pinboard is doing everything right in that regard—of course, it cribs from Delicious before it—giving hyperlinkers an appropriate amount of meta-dressing to put around their link: tags, description, search tools. However, it misses out on the kind of visual styling and layouts that you, Joe, get to enjoy. (I really like how you batch up links for the day, similar to how h0p3 does it.)

I think another of my lingering questions is: what are we really doing here? When I look at h0p3’s links, he’s trying to catalog his discoveries for the day completely—at least, I don’t think he edits this list. You also mention in your essay that you ‘curate links for my own ongoing use’. Whereas I tend to ‘advertise’ links more, to bring attention to the parts of the web that I want to survive.

So it’s more natural for me to work towards a final directory of links, a hub of all the nodes that I want to see connected. I want these individuals to be aware of each other. I see your Linkport as being a type of directory; I wonder to what extent you are doing this as well—and I wonder what kinds of collaborations we could get going between our directories. You do say that ‘people finding me and finding some of my links enjoyable’ is a secondary goal. I guess another angle I keep alluding to is the benefit you give to the authors behind the links you’re publishing—this type of work is a tremendous gift to them.

Along these lines: I see link duplication as being an interesting thing—clearly we don’t all just want the same links, but I think it will be interesting to see how much overlap there is. I also really like, for example, when David Crawshaw’s article last week got linked by h0p3, Brad, Eli, other microbloggers—it made me feel like we were trying to send some kind of concentrated transmission to the author—linking as a greeting, links as an invitation.

With time, many personal sites and blogs disappeared from the web as people flocked to the big silos where their content became a heavily monitized commodity. To me, the web had lost much of its soul as people gathered in just a few, huge noise chambers. […]

Current trends and a rebirth of personal blogging certainly make the type of curation I do much easier, thank you. Had it not been for that stimulating conversation, I probably would not have been writing this.

It’s interesting to me that the corpypastas (or CorpASAs) had this kind of effect. Because they actually eased publishing and participation for so many people. Facebook is a type of gated community—so I see why it had this kind of effect. But it’s interesting that Twitter and Instagram also dampened the growth of the web. I hazard that perhaps this was simply because their game was best played by their rules—an external link to Twitter wouldn’t show up in your ‘likes’ whereas a like from another tweet was fully realized by the author and the… err… liker.

And I don’t want to chalk this up to mere ego—the author and the liker could see each other from across the Internet. And that is valuable. This is also what micro.blog is assisting us with—we have our blogs, but it is a useful capsule pipeline, so that we can get to each other clearly. (This is why I’m not just linking to your blog post and waiting for you to notice somehow—this communication structure that we’re using here is very useful to us, even if I can almost guarantee that this post is going to be flattened into a massive paragraph by micro.blog. No problemo—I’m just glad to have a direct line to you, Joe!)

Regarding another thing Kicks asked about: Aside from evolving html, accessibility, and design standards and practices, I’m really not sure if linking, in general, has changed over the years. I’ve been doing it the same since day one. But that’s just me.

For me, I do find that Webmentions are really enhancing linking—by offering a type of bidirectional hyperlink. I think if they could see widespread use, we’d see a Renaissance of blogging on the Web. Webmentions are just so versatile—you can use them to commment, you an form ad-hoc directories with them, you can identify yourself to a wider community. I really feel like they are a useful modernization.

But I like that you are true to the linking you’ve always done. It still works. It’s an ideal that we fell away from I guess.


  1. The Third Policeman, of course! But also: Heartsnatcher by Boris Vian (just my kind of meandering, vexing thing), Writers by Antoine Volodine. And soon I will get into Impressions of Africa by Raymond Roussel. ↩︎

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08 Dec 2018

James Somers’ Home Page

A self-catalog—tho this format could fly as an outgoing directory.

I mostly cover obscure writers. James is a widely published author (The Atlantic, Playboy, Aeon) but this is a neat personal directory to his writing—very homespun and lightly annotated, with asterisks and highlighting used to nice effect.

Articles such as How I Reverse Engineered Google Docs To Play Back Any Document’s Keystrokes are a festive hybrid of code, anecdote and sundry links—found in paragraphs festooned with blue underlines that act like surprising miniature directories nested in the article. (This is an approach that I feel I need to cover in Foundations of a Tiny Directory.)

I also think it’s interesting that he catalogs all of his individual blog entries. This whole page very much fits in with my definition of Hypertexting—these scattered essays and posts become a body of work here. And the quality is excellent: generally well-considered and well-executed.

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21 Nov 2018

Reply: More Joe Questions

jenett

@kicks Thanks for the compliment kicks. Though it’s never totally free of bad links, a fair amount of time is spent revisiting sites along with periodic link checking sessions. Glad to know you couldn’t find one - yay! I found your blog recently via this very thread - very unique. Spoiler alert: It’s in the pointers queue.

Wow, you hand-check the whole thing?? Ok, wow, so if you don’t mind I have a few more questions—actually, quite a few more, but I’ll constrain myself!

  1. A lot of links I find through just old-school surfing, but there are some tools that are like virtual mines for me. (Google is often useless, because a search for ‘interesting blog’ usually just yields clickbait and I don’t want to just regurgitate that stuff.) What tools or sites have you found most useful for discovering links?
  2. Also, is surfing a kind of skill? I mean: finding obscure avenues, well, they are obscure—hard to find by definition! At the same time, having a ‘linkpost’ at least provides an intersection between worlds where people can find each other. Do people find you? Is that just as important as you finding them?
  3. And, yeah, since you’ve been doing this for several decades—has linking changed over time? Like: what is modern linking?

Also, if you’d rather post your answers as a blog post, I can link to that. Great to meet you—I’m immediately a huge fan!

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Reply: Awesome Phone Websites

simonwoods

Either they’re genuinely useless at making websites or it’s some Silicon Valley-esque bullshit being peddled.

Hot takes aside, I thought Universe was a pretty neat tool when I last looked at it. These kinds of things can have really poor money strategies and still have novel ideas inside.

So, yeah, I thought the editor was a nice, simple tool for building little web pages with blocks of text and pictures. I’m planning to use it for a project at the elementary school to see how the kids use it. (This seems like the rare technology that has enough color and expressiveness to be useful to me there—especially now that Byte is defunct.)

If we can learn from the good tools, they can help us figure out how to craft the Indieweb. We will need more than just protocols.

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17 Nov 2018

Reply: Doorknobs Out of Reach

h0p3

It’s hard to beat the flexibility, resilience, and longevity of flat textfiles, but that is almost definitionally committing to non-committing. I like both extremes.

Part one of thirty-five.

Sweet letter—I’m going to dig into this further over the next while, I’m going not to say much here, because h0p3 has many things to do and I don’t want there to be any timer started just yet, in fact, let’s suppose that I’ve already written a very lengthy reply, but am just sitting on it, to let the wide variety of worthwhile non-hyperconversation things transpire. Just want to mop a few fallen fruits off the floor.

TW defeats a number of frictions like a champion. I posit that TW is radically more decentralization-capable than Dat. Legions of analog and digital systems can move one file, but it is possible only few will speak Dat.

Oh, for sure—its resilience is proven. I side with TiddlyWiki in the long-term, no doubt. In fact, I am siding with its powers of adaptation. It runs on Node, it runs on Beaker—let’s push that adaptation further. (Perhaps this means that Dat is less resilient and will fall—but I think the protocol has to be narrow/simple to see widespread use.)

My money is on WASM-Web 3.0 taking further down that rabbithole.

I’m great with this, so long as we don’t lose hypertext in the process.

To my eyes, Dat is competing with IPFS, Syncthing, Resilio Sync, mutable torrents, etc. For now, I just use Resilio Sync for the functional Dat-properties I need.

Try to keep in mind that it’s not even Dat that excites me about Beaker. It’s that you can read-write entire locally synced folders from the same languages ‘for which every computer has a virtual machine’. With Beaker, I can make an editable copy of your wiki—even if it was split into tiddlers, even if it was in a thousand pieces.

This is clearly an innovation that we follow. Take the rock-solid v.machine and let it create, babe.

I’m a P2P idealist who agrees there are classes of problems which can only efficiently be federated.

Mmmm, yes—same here. One of my fave networks was Soulseek. You could connect to people and see all the files they were sharing. I ended up just raiding people’s shelves rather than trying to track down Pavement b-sides. But that required some kind of cohesive network where you can ‘see’ everyone.

Wowowow-it’s still there! Just installed. There is a lot of good stuff still on here. How has it stayed so obscure and devout?

A starting place for the opposite style seems like poetry or crystallized summation. It only shows semblances, outlines, glimpses, fragments, and impressions on purpose. I think it must be antipleonasmic.

Yeah, this is a sweet letter. I hope there’s a worthy reply somewhere in my timeline.

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13 Nov 2018

The Federation

A directory of ‘federated’ communities.

A list of all of the various blogging and messaging services that are connected to each other by way of ‘federation’ (e.g. Mastodon). This is impressive—user statistics and lists of smaller communities within each group. I’ve thought that the Indieweb was ‘ahead’ of the Fediverse, but it’s much easier to find each other with this kind of centralized directory.

I also generally advocate human-curated directories. But, in the case of examining the offerings of a network, this kind of entirely machine-constructed catalog makes perfect sense. A stat-based and rather spreadsheet-like view is the whole point.

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09 Nov 2018

Wars of Conflicting Webs

Will your .pizza domain survive?

Beaker vs TiddlyWiki. ActivityPub against Webmentions. Plain HTML hates them all.

I step back and, man, all the burgeoning technology out there is at complete odds with the other! Let’s do a run down. I’m not just doing this to stir up your sensibilities. Part of it is that I am lost in all of this stuff and need to sort my socks.

(I realize I’m doing a lot of ‘versus’ stuff below—but I don’t mean to be critical or adversarial. The point is to examine the frictions.)

Beaker Browser vs TiddlyWiki

At face value, Beaker[1] is great for TiddlyWiki[2]: you can have this browser that can save to your computer directly—so you can read and write your wiki all day, kid! And it syncs, it syncs.

No, it doesn’t let you write from different places yet—so you can’t really use it—but hopefully I’ll have to come back and change these words soon enough—it’s almost there?

Beaker and TiddlyWiki.

Big problem, though: Beaker (Dat[3]) doesn’t store differences. And TiddlyWiki is one big file. So every time you save, it keeps the old one saved and the network starts to fill with these old copies. And you can easily have a 10 meg wiki—you get a hundred days of edits under your belt and you’ve created some trouble for yourself.

Beaker is great for your basic blog or smattering of pages. It remains to be seen how this would be solved: differencing? Breaking up TiddlyWiki? Storing in JSON? Or do I just regenerate a new hash, a new Dat every time I publish? And use the hostname rather than the hash. I don’t know if that messes with the whole thing too much.

Where I Lean: I think I side with Beaker here. TiddlyWiki is made for browsers that haven’t focused on writing. But if it could be tailored to Beaker—to save in individual files—a Dat website already acts like a giant file, like a ZIP file. And I think it makes more sense to keep these files together inside a Dat rather than using HTML as the filesystem.

Datasette vs Beaker Browser

While we’re here, I’ve been dabbling with Datasette[4] as a possible inductee into the tultywits and I could see more sites being done this way. A mutation of Datasette that appeals to me is: a static HTML site that stores all its data in a single file database—the incomparable SQLite.

I could see this blog done out like that: I access the database from Beaker and add posts. Then it gets synced to you and the site just loads everything straight from your synced database, stored in that single file.

But yeah: single file, gets bigger and bigger. (Interesting that TorrentNet is a network built on BitTorrent and SQLite.) I know Dat (Hypercore) deals in chunks. Are chunks updated individually or is the whole file replaced? I just can’t find it.

Where I Lean: I don’t know yet! Need to find a good database to use inside a ‘dat’ and which functions well with Beaker (today).

(Cont’d.) Beaker vs Indieweb, TiddlyWiki vs Indieweb

Ok, talk about hot friction—Beaker sites require no server, so the dream is to package your raw posts with your site and use JavaScript to display it all. This prevents you from having HTML copies of things everywhere—you update a post and your index.html gets updated, tag pages get updated, monthly archives, etc.

And TiddlyWiki is all JavaScript. Internal dynamism vs Indieweb’s external dynamism.

Webmention vs Dynamism.

But the Indieweb craves static HTML—full of microformats. There’s just no other way about it.

Where I Lean: This is tough! If I want to participate in the Indieweb, I need static HTML. So I think I will output minimal HTML for all the posts and the home page. The rest can be JavaScript. So—not too bad?

ActivityPub vs Static HTML

ActivityPub seems to want everything to be dynamic. I saw this comment by one of the main Mastodon developers:

I do not plan on supporting Atom feeds that don’t have Webfinger and Salmon (i.e. non-interactive, non-user feeds.)

This seems like a devotion to ‘social’, right?

I’ve been wrestling with trying to get this blog hooked up to Mastodon—just out of curiosity. But I gave up. What’s the point? Anyone can use a web browser to get here. Well, yeah, I would like to communicate with everyone using their chosen home base.

ActivityPub and Beaker are almost diametrically opposed it seems.

Where I Lean: Retreat from ActivityPub. I am hard-staked to Static: the Gathering. (‘Bridgy Fed’[5] is a possible answer—but subscribing to @kicks@kickscondor.com doesn’t seem to work quite yet.)

ActivityPub's message blasting.

It feels like ActivityPub is pushing itself further away with such an immense protocol. Maybe it’s like Andre Staltz recently told me about Secure Scuttlebutt:

[…] ideally we want SSB to be a decentralized invite-only networks, so that someone has to pull you into their social circles, or you pull in others into yours. It has upsides and downsides, but we think it more naturally corresponds to relationships outside tech.

Ok, so, perhaps building so-called ‘walled gardens’—Andre says, “isolated islands of SSB networks”—is just the modern order. (Secure Scuttlebutt is furthered obscured by simply not being accessible through any web browser I know of; there are mobile apps.)

ActivityPub vs Webmention

This feels more like a head-to-head, except that ‘Bridgy Fed’[5:1] is working to connect the two. These two both are:

  • Communicating between feeds.
  • Handling the ‘likes’, the ‘replies’, the ‘follows’ and such.
  • An inbox/outbox model.

I think the funny thing here goes back to ‘Fed Bridgy’: the Indieweb/Webmention crowd is really making an effort to bridge the protocols. This is very amusing to me because the Webmention can be entirely described in a few paragraphs—so why are we using anything else at this point?

But the Webmention crowd now seems to have enough time on its hands that it’s now connecting Twitter, Github, anonymous comments, Mastodon, micro.blog to its lingua franca. So what I don’t understand is—why not just speak French? ActivityPub falls back to OStatus. What gives?


  1. Beaker Browser. A decentralized Web browser. You share your website on the network and everyone can seed it. ↩︎

  2. TiddlyWiki. A wiki that is a single HTML page. It can be edited in Firefox and Google, then saved back to a single file. ↩︎

  3. Beaker uses the Dat protocol rather than the Web (HTTP). A ‘dat’ is simply a zip file of your website than can be shared and that keeps its file history around. ↩︎

  4. Datasette. If you have a database of data you want to share, Datasette will automatically generate a website for it. ↩︎

  5. fed.brid.gy. A site for replying to Mastodon from your Indieweb site. ↩︎ ↩︎

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02 Nov 2018

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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.