A Home on the Internet

I haven’t said much about my thinking or plans for this site since re-launching it back in April, but as I’ve grown weary of the social media engagement game, it’s been exciting to have a personal corner of the internet that reflects my values to play with again — particularly one that’s been helpful in reconnecting with all of my varied interests, particularly during a challenging year.

My aim was simply to create something I would enjoy using while dusting off old skills and brushing up on new technologies, a place reflective of where I am today and that can evolve with me. At the same time, I wanted to “own” much more of the content I publish and maintain control over its presentation. Like back in the early days of the internet, you know, before we started giving away everything in return for reach and engagement.

Maybe it’s a bit cliché, but I subscribe to the golden rule in how I try to treat others, and I haven’t felt those values reflected in social sites for a while. I wanted the content and the container of it to reflect those values. And I wanted something simple to understand with performance and accessibility considerations baked in from day one. Purposefully there’s no analytics or tracking, no likes or comments — and only the most minimal use of Javascript. Web standards are still the best way to accomplish all those things — a show of respect for anyone who visits.

No Blueprint

Although I’m a planner by nature, I honestly didn’t have a complete picture when I started — and truthfully still don’t. I had a handful of notes and sketches, but that was about it. I wanted to try a looser process, to feel my way through the design, and to build everything in the browser as a constraint. A few ideas didn’t work out, while others were shelved. But patterns emerged which influenced small adjustments and have become jumping-off points for other design changes I’m considering.

One of the things I appreciate most about printed matter and analog things is that they tend to have edges or can be encapsulated in a distinct period of time. The number of pages in a book that allows you to mentally imagine how long it will take you to finish reading it. In contrast, digital is fluid, always in motion, and less fixed in time or space. A digital thing may have many markers in time as it evolves and changes. A finish line only exists if that digital thing disappears entirely.

A new site felt very much like a new chapter. Anything was and is possible again, and it’s freed me to approach it from that perspective. But not every change needed to be some grand gesture. In fact, most of the changes and improvements outside of content I’ve made since April are anything but.

Ethan inspired the inclusion of an accessibility statement. The idea for a simple and straightforward privacy statement was quick to follow. Both also helped fuel the Ethos section, which has become something of a stream of consciousness of my thoughts around technology and personal creative practice. It’s become a way for me to codify what and how I think about these things. Hoping they’re helpful to others too.

The intentionally succinct and open-ended nature of the content going into the Ethos section may be my favorite part of the site now. I want these ideas to be approachable but curious. They share something with the pithy aphorisms people like McLuhan would throw out to encourage reflection. I want them to be the start of a conversation more than a well-defined statement of fact. Some have already been updated as my own thinking has shifted, or where a more exact way to present an idea was possible.

Under the Hood

Technologically speaking, both the Ethos and Documenting (aka blog) sections have JSON feeds now instead of RSS; however, both used RSS initially. Switching to JSON simplified the backend considerably while making it easier to tailor functionality — like adding a reply via email option directly in the feed. Thanks, Ethan, for the idea (again). And thanks to Kirby, which makes this trivial — and fun to implement.

Speaking of Kirby — I really can’t say enough good things about it as a tool. It’s been such a joy to work with, allowing me to make all these incremental improvements to nearly every corner of the site quickly and confidently. And while few might notice, it adds up for me as a publisher.

Most of it isn’t flashy — moving code into controllers or collections, simplifying templates while aiding readability, tidying up CSS (much more to do there still), or generally optimizing performance through srcset and lazy loading images. These are excitingly nerdy things though!

And despite so many months now of starting at glowing rectangles all day, my analog heart is still beating strong. While I’ll have more on that soon, I can say it’s been exciting to play on the web and have a good foundation on which to anchor things to once again.