Further adventures in webdesign.

In a paroxysm of inspiration and productivity, I spent the last weekend building my new domain-level website**, including making a fansite (a “shrine” in fandom jargon). Atom.io text editor on one monitor, web browser on the other monitor, with CSS Reference and W3Schools for reference, and a bunch of personal websites and domains for inspiration. The fansite took up most of the weekend: Took an old layout I created years ago, updated, streamlined and enhanced the markup; in between that, I did a ton of research and “content creation”.

**Have to deal with a few things on the backend over the next few weeks (including, er, migrating to a new domain that I recently bought), but soon, there will be NEW STUFF on my domain! Hooray!

Partway through, it dawned on me that I was enjoying the webdesign process. Earlier I’d ranted about my woes of manually converting my Tumblr into a static site built with Hugo. Quite a vast difference between these two experiences!

Continue reading “Further adventures in webdesign.”

Learning Hugo, migrating Tumblr, hating it all the way.

I’m currently learning the ins and outs of Hugo static site generator, while using my Tumblr as a case study, and thus a reason to learn. I’ve been relying on this YouTube tutorial series, and the official Hugo documentation.

Coding and markup for webmastering have always been a two steps back, three steps forward, process for me. All self-taught, amateur, and learnt piecemeal, through poring through documentation and online advice, the occasional guidance from friends (usually serendipitous), and hours of trial-and-error and troubleshooting.

People in my (Myers-Briggs) personality type category tend to gravitate towards programming and coding. I suppose I have a knack for it, and I seem to insist on hand-crafting websites myself, so I must find some enjoyment and value in webmastering. But there’s something that separates webmastering from other my “crafting/creative” hobbies such as writing and drawing. I can enter flow states in the latter two, lose myself in the process of making art or writing stories. Hours pass by, and I never ask myself whether art or writing is worth it. (The questioning usually happens after the fact, when I’m out of the flow.)

I make websites, but I can’t bring myself to say that I love the process, nor have I ever been aware of entering a flow state. Webmastering differs from art/writing in that it’s only enjoyable insofar as it gives returns on investment. At every step, the back of my mind is constantly evaluating, “is it worth it?”

Continue reading “Learning Hugo, migrating Tumblr, hating it all the way.”

Weird Indieweb idea of the day: guestbooks.

If the Indieweb is reviving “Web 1.0” artifacts that foster a sense of community, such as site directories and webrings, I’d like to see a comeback of guestbooks. I remember how you could sign up with a guestbook host — they did all the scripting/hosting, and you pasted a link on your webpages to “sign guestbook” and “view guestbook”, and watched as visitors signed in over time. In the days of static websites, those were delightful methods of public, mutual discovery, through leaving a mark on someone’s website while also including a link to your own. At least, they were delightful before the spammers and big commerce arrived.

I suppose it’s still possible to make a “guestbook” by pinning a static page on your blog that people can comment on. Comments on a blog’s post seem to be the present-day equivalent to guestbook signings on a static, mute website. That doesn’t have the same feel as “sign guestbook” and “view guestbook”, though.

Something to try out one day when the site has gotten off the ground. But I’m a little doubtful that guestbooks will catch on. For one, the Internet is a very different place, and when the manual act of signing guestbooks has been replaced by automated metrics and anonymous trackers, this “neighbourly” practice has been lost. But it’s worth a go to see what kind of people might bother to sign a guestbook.

Hugo is a winner.

Installed Hugo and playing with it. This is incredible. All the laboriousness of coding webpages has been automated. Hugo can handle all the rote tasks, and I can get on with making content in markdown instead of stuffing around with markup. Most of my online presence is suited to static webpages, but has been spread around social media because I didn’t quite have the tools to build everything I wanted. Hugo offers a way to do that. Consolidation FTW. The days of finally leaving Tumblr, WordPress, Wordnik, Instagram, and Twitter are on the horizon.

Things to do:
Find a good website theme, or learn how to make one. How to make one theme adapt to different content types.

How to syndicate a static blog/site on RSS?

How to integrate Hugo into my existing creative workflow, and then publish everything online, with the least amount of friction. FTP is too much friction.

Hugo’s local server, and Writemonkey‘s abillity to bind its database to independent files, may be the keys to some of my writing workflow problems.

Webdesign, the state of the art.

At last, an article that explains the state of the art. Now I have a framework of reference for how the Internet is built, what all those tools/coding/markup languages/etc mean and do, and how they fit in with each other. Things are making more sense.

It seems that my skillset is all in static webdesign (HTML/CSS), whereas dynamic webdesign was the doorway I couldn’t/didn’t get through. Probably as a result of that, I dropped out of the game right when dynamic websites were taking off.

And it looks like the days of writing markup/content in Notepad and then uploading those files to my host via FTP are well and truly dead. If I want to revive my old domain into a proper website I’ll have to find out what new tools are being used. And then, get some web hosting where I can tinker.

Next to investigate:
What are static site generators, are they the “post-Web 2.0” version of WYSIWYG?
How do I use them, how much effort do I need to spend to learn that, and is that effort worth it?
Can I use a static site generator to blog?
What, exactly, am I going to do with a domain (and not a microblog like this)? How will it enrich my life? How will it enrich others’ lives?

💡 Things I looked up today. Dusted off my very old, very neglected domain to see if I can link it back to M.B here. I ended up reading through W3Schools’ tutorials on HTML and CSS.

It’s been about ten years since I last wrote markup. The last thing I was doing then was getting my HTML4 webpages compliant with XHTML 1.0, and trying — and failing — to wrap my head around all the new coding languages of XML and PHP. Now… HTML5 has some neat little quality-of-life updates, but otherwise, seems much the same as it’s always been, to my enormous relief.

My old domain has been hosted all this time by a former friend I’m no longer in contact with. A great kindness, there. I doubt anyone still links to it anymore. I’ll just put a redirecting link from there to Micro.blog. And maybe tinker around with some of my old webpages. Writing markup isn’t my jam, but it’s a good skill to have under my belt, and I can’t deny there’s still a modicum of fun and satisfaction in producing a neatly designed webpage.

Thoughts on the Internet, fragmentation and consolidation, and singing weird songs on Micro.blog.

I have spent about half my life online. Those early years were spent traipsing around the small villages of various university, educational, and hobby websites; the days when people learnt HTML and CSS (and later, PHP) and made websites on Geocities and Angelfire (and later, got their own domains with quirky and wonderful names), and the emergence of blogs and bloggers on Livejournal and Blogger (and later, WordPress). “Social media” as it existed were website guestbooks, webrings, messageboards, and IRC and instant messengers. The Net was indeed a web of small villages, and websites were private homes: some of them familiar, some idiosyncratic, all of them recognizably belonging to a human being. The Internet and I, we came of age together.

But we grew up, and the times have changed. The Net is simultaneously fragmenting while consolidating, and in all the wrong ways. Consolidating, in that the websites have stopped being private homes and started becoming homogenous apartment complexes. The villages have been crowded out by sprawling urbanization. Fragmenting, in that those institutions have developed such centres of gravity that people are amassed within them, and have to travel between walled gardens and silos in order to engage with each other. The institutions consolidate and set the culture of format and engagement; the person fragments while moving between those edifices and expressing the self through externally-imposed standards. Thus, people’s identities stopped looking idiosyncratic and started looking uniform. The Internet no longer looks so human.

Because it looks less human and more of a technology-industrial complex, it’s easy to forget that people’s accounts and feeds are their homes on the Net. It’s easy to forget, when I land on someone’s Tumblr or Twitter account, that I am the guest who was invited to come in for a little while to listen to them speak and sing. It’s easy to stomp all over that person’s home on the Net and get into fights on their property. –Was it their property in the first place? It was the institution gave them that grey box to live in, identical to my grey box.

I’ve accepted that there’s no turning back the clock, but in the process of the Internet maturing into Web 2.0 and beyond, I’ve been kind of cast adrift, and have spent most of the last decade trying not just to find the Internet spaces that look human and echo the small villages of my younger days and thus can be called a home, but also trying to define what the Internet-as-community means to me, and therefore, how I am to relate to Internet-as-community. In some ways, this fragmentation and thinning of human identity on the Internet has contributed to me becoming _less_ invested in online forms of self-expression. I’m no longer the agent defining my own online identity, let alone defining Internet-as-community. That role has been taken over by those institutions. So I no longer blog and make websites and speak out my thinking online, who did a lot of both in the Internet’s (and my) coming-of-age. Some of that is realizing that I am a human-in-flesh, not some disembodied consciousness in the aether, and thus life is best lived IRL; but in part, I always had a lingering subconscious sense that ownership and expression of my online identity was being eroded and fragmented over time. Since those early days, I haven’t been able to find a place to speak or make a home, ever since.

I think… Micro.blog may be that homey place I’m looking for. A place where I can consolidate my online identity from the fragmentation it’s experienced across social media. A place where the community is “broken down” back into small, idiosyncratic houses I can visit and be a guest for a short time (and they be a guest in my house), instead of monolithic aggregations of people with no sense of walls and boundaries. And a place where it’s easy to make and post content of all kinds without having to figure out the systems to hold said content. The Internet has outgrown my very basic HTML and CSS skills.

I’m not looking for a platform or an audience. In fact, one luxury of the Internet is that I don’t have to see, or hear, or engage with, the audience. I just want to sing. I want to carve out a little crevice of the Net, hide inside, and sing all kinds of odd little word-based and occasionally picturesque songs. Sure, there are lots of places to do this, but they usually want me to sing in a certain way (in 280 characters, or manicured images, say), or sing amidst a cacophony of other voices, or jump through hoops to sing in the first place. At least, it feels that way to me.

I’m not pinning all my hopes in this place. No doubt Micro.blog will face challenges with maintaining this sense of villages and private houses as it expands and grows, and more people arrive. If it gets too overwhelming, I’ll pack up my content and fly away and find another crevice to carve out. But for now, this seems to be the place I’m looking for. Let’s see what kind of little house I can build here. Maybe it’ll be a cozy one for a while.

A new blog for a new season.

Behold: Vega has returned to the blogging beat. It feels good to be back. Welcome to Flying With Sails: the Next Journey.

It’s time for a new blog. My Livejournal served for a period in my life, but I’ve now outgrown that season. I may eventually take it down, but for now it remains.

Let’s see how this goes, how long this lasts… and I’m hopeful. See you around.