all posts tagged 'indieweb'

Everybody's Free (To Write Websites)

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Enbies and gentlefolk of the class of ‘24:

Write websites.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, coding would be it. The long term benefits of coding websites remains unproved by scientists, however the rest of my advice has a basis in the joy of the indie web community’s experiences.

I love the reference to Wear Sunscreen, one of the great commencement speeches.

There is amazing advice and inspiration for building websites in here. It also reminded me of POSSE, meaning “Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.”

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 The Internet Is About to Get Weird Again

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There’s not going to be some new killer app that displaces Google or Facebook or Twitter with a love-powered alternative. But that’s because there shouldn’t be. There should be lots of different, human-scale alternative experiences on the internet that offer up home-cooked, locally-grown, ethically-sourced, code-to-table alternatives to the factory-farmed junk food of the internet. And they should be weird.

If you missed this one when it was making the rounds seven months ago, Anil Dash did not disappoint with this think piece about the weird internet.

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The Web Is Not Inevitable

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The Web we have was not born out of neglect. It has taken intentionality to become what it is. The Web we have today will not continue to be what it is and what we envision it to become if we do not involve ourselves.

Yes, it’s good to take a break when your burnt out and tired. Yes, it’s good to know when to stop or circle back when something isn’t working. Yes, it’s good to humbly trust others. These are all healthy, necessary things to do if we want to see the Web thrive, but do not remain extinguished, stalled, or sidelined.

The Web needs you and me.

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The whole point of the web is that we’re not supposed to be dependent on any one company or person or community to make it all work and the only reason why we trusted Google is because the analytics money flowed in our direction. Now that it doesn’t, the whole internet feels unstable. As if all these websites and publishers had set up shop perilously on the edge of an active volcano.

But that instability was always there.

The only social network I post on anymore is LinkedIn. I have close to 2,000 followers there.

Lately, I’ve noticed that the “engagement” on my posts is increasingly sparse. Earlier this year, I was routinely seeing thousands of views per post. These days, I’m only seeing hundreds, and when it comes to sharing links to my newsletter, I’m seeing only dozens.

Meanwhile, here on my rag tag blog, I know my thoughts end up reaching people who matter the most to me.

It’s certainly less than the 2,000 people who follow me on LinkedIn, and substantially less than the tens of thousands of people a week who “engage” with my “content”1 there… but I don’t care.

By posting here, I’m taking the harder route of building an audience without the flashy shortcuts promised by platforms like LinkedIn and Google.

Whenever I try to take shortcuts and play SEO games, I end up doing things to my website which make it feel less authentic.

And these days, I find myself asking, “what exactly do I need to take a shortcut for?”

Robin also quotes this piece by Jeremy Keith where he discusses our need for human curation:

I want a web that empowers people to connect with other people they trust, without any intermediary gatekeepers.

The evangelists of large language models (who may coincidentally have invested heavily in the technology) like to proclaim that a slop-filled future is inevitable, as though we have no choice, as though we must simply accept enshittification as though it were a force of nature.

But we can always walk away.

It’s tough to walk away from the big tech companies, but I can assure you it is possible.

Facebook used to dominate my daily existence, but besides perhaps Marketplace for selling my junk, I do not miss any of Meta’s properties since I left several years back.

Google was my portal to my email, search, and maps for years. In the past few years, I have switched to primarily using Fastmail, Ecosia, and Apple Maps. Here in 2024, they all work well.2

I do my best to avoid ordering stuff off of Amazon, and I hardly stream anything on Netflix anymore.3

I haven’t made the move over to the Light Phone yet, and I find it hard to believe that I’ll give up my Apple Watch, Apple TV, or iPad/Macs… but I do find myself questioning the prolific presence of Apple in my life more often than I did, say, ten years ago.

As I continue to experiment with LLMs, I’ve noticed that the locally-run, open source models getting closer to the performance you see in closed source models like GPT-4o and Claude Sonnet 3.5 Sonnet. It’s only a matter of time that they’re good enough to do the tasks that I find myself turning to ChatGPT to complete today.

Enshittification isn’t inevitable. Like depression, it’s an indicator that something in your digital life needs to change.

  1. Sorry for the obnoxious emphasis on terms like “engagement” and “content”… I’ve reached a point where I feel like those words are meaningless. A lot of the themes of this post can be summed up with trust, and in order to accurately engagement, you have to trust that the metrics provided by the platform vendor are accurate (which I do not). And calling our collective knowledge “content” as though it’s the equivalent of feed for the cattle also upsets me.  

  2. Ecosia’s results are powered by Bing, which traditionally haven’t been that great, but I just consider this to be a benefit of Google’s results becoming terrible. Now both search engines return subpar results, and by using Ecosia, I am helping to plant trees. It ain’t much, but it’s honest work

  3. The last couple weeks have seen my most Netflix action in years, because I did watch Muscles & Mayhem, the American Gladiators documentary, on Netflix last week, and I do highly recommend it. I’m also gonna give the Tour de France documentary a shot as well. 

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A Link Blog in the Year 2024

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Like many people I’ve been dealing with the collapses of the various systems I relied on for information over the previous decades. After 17 of using Twitter daily and 24 years of using Google daily neither really works anymore. And particular with the collapse of the social spaces many of us grew up with, I feel called back to earlier forms of the Internet, like blogs, and in particular, starting a link blog.

One of us! One of us!

This isn’t a lengthy post, but I damn near quoted the whole thing because Kellan makes great points about the state of information sharing, the collapse of the Web 2.0 social infrastructure we all used for twenty years, and lamenting the fact he doesn’t really consume media from a wide variety of sources (me too, friend).

If you’re reading my link blog here, consider starting one of your own. Make it low effort for yourself, but just start one and stick to it for a month.

I think you’ll find your media consumption habits begin to trend toward higher quality sources of information/entertainment.

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Personal Website Aesthetics

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I came across this list of various questions for how personal websites reflect social movements these days, and this one got me thinking:

what’s punk online today? what’s the website equivalent of a zine? the photocopy look or the ethic of throw this up fast and cheap?

When I started designing websites in the late 90s, we didn’t have much by way of templates or nice aesthetics to adopt. Everything was looping MIDIs, seven baked-in fonts, and maybe a <marquee> or <blink> tossed in for good measure.

Nowadays, the kids have an incredible amount of templates and tooling available to make websites look really polished and smooth out of the box.

But I guess the point Tracy is trying to make here is that stuff isn’t really punk or counter culture. People expect corporate websites to look polished. Rounded rectangles. Big, bubbly fonts with (shudders) dynamic carousels.

I am feeling the itch to redesign my site again, and I am unsure what direction to take. My personal braaaaand is still being defined, but the elements I can identify off the dome would be inclusive, optimistic, sarcastic, and warm.

Are those elements counter culture these days?

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This site contains 29257 unique* 88x31 buttons that I scraped from the GeoCities archives compiled by the incredible ARCHIVE TEAM before GeoCities' demise in late 2009.

I shouldn’t go through all ~30,000 images to find the ones I made for Tim’s World or That’s Unpossible, right?


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The Internet Needs to Change

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I hate the internet.

...that's a lie. I love it, but I hate the algorithms.

That's also a lie... I love the algorithms.

I watched this video on the plane ride back from Nickelodeon Resort yesterday, and I have to say, it got me.

Hank's assessment of how the algorithms deployed by social networks come up short in actually giving us what we want is spot on.

It's why I love how many friends are spinning up their own newsletters. And this new newsletter was a no brainer instasubscribe.

Ever since my buddy Paul gifted me a premium subscription to Garbage Day, I've been a voracious newsletter subscriber. They do a great job of filling the void that Google Reader left in my life.1

This website has been my way of curating the internet, sharing things I've found that interest me, but maybe I should start a newsletter myself and do things in both places.

Should I tell my impostor syndrome to shove it and start my own newsletter, y'all?

  1. I do need to find a way to get them out of my inbox, though. I really should move all my subscriptions into Feedbin so they show up in my RSS reader app. 

How Google made the world go viral

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The question, of course, is when did it all go wrong? How did a site that captured the imagination of the internet and fundamentally changed the way we communicate turn into a burned-out Walmart at the edge of town? 

Well, if you ask Anil Dash, it was all the way back in 2003 — when the company turned on its AdSense program.

“Prior to 2003–2004, you could have an open comment box on the internet. And nobody would pretty much type in it unless they wanted to leave a comment. No authentication. Nothing. And the reason why was because who the fuck cares what you comment on there. And then instantly, overnight, what happened?” Dash said. “Every single comment thread on the internet was instantly spammed. And it happened overnight.”

Dash has written extensively over the years on the impact platform optimization has had on the way the internet works. As he sees it, Google’s advertising tools gave links a monetary value, killing anything organic on the platform. From that moment forward, Google cared more about the health of its own network than the health of the wider internet. 

I’ve been on the internet since before Google came to dominate it, and this feels like an extremely accurate assessment.

It doesn’t seem fair to say “this is all Google’s fault.” After all, most of us who work on the internet wouldn’t be able to do so without people commercializing it.

But it comes back to your goals, I guess. I never built a blog to make any sort of money. I lose hundreds of dollars a year by cultivating this little space on the web.

But I don’t regret a single penny. It’s an investment in something that brings me true joy.

I have zero analytics running on this site right now. It’s a bit of a weird flex, sure, but honestly, I don’t care if there is one person reading these words or a million.

The main reason I don’t track people is because I don’t want to start making this something which requires me to keep dancing to get people’s attention.

I dunno… I just miss open comment boxes. And while I don’t like what I see on sites like Facebook and Google these days, I can at least hang my hat on the fact that there’s a thriving indie web community that keeps writing on their sites and connecting with each other through RSS feeds.

And also, shout out to Ryan Broderick, the author of this article. I’m a huge fan of Garbage Day and his work dissecting the weirdness of the internet. If you like this piece, you’ll love his newsletter.

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My website as a home

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I’d like to use “home” as the operative analogy for my own website.

With any analogy, you choose which properties of the subject to apply to the object of comparison, and which to ignore. What I find significant about homes in this context is that they don’t exist primarily for display: rather, they’re designed around the habits and values of their occupants.

Analogously, I want to use my website to order and document my own activity, and to interact with things and people that I care about.

Still, a website and a home are importantly different in that the former is intended for public exposure, whereas the latter is grounded in private life. But maybe we can relate the public nature of websites to a public dimension of homes: hosting visitors.

Typically we don’t show our house guests everything — we keep many things private and clean up before they arrive. Moreover, we’ve made prior decisions about our furniture and decor with future guests in mind. So homes can certainly be curated for the public eye; but crucially, they maintain their function as living spaces.

I find it generative to consider websites as a similar conjunction of public and private activity: by thinking about how visitors will receive the things that I publish, I’m compelled to produce more and refine the things that I make. At the same time, the website remains my space and is subservient to no other end.

The joy I get from tweaking my personal site and sharing links like this to it seems to be the exact same joy that my kids get out of meticulously organizing their playhouses.

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