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.

Weird webring idea of the day.

There ought to be a webring for lists of words. Surely there are other logophilic nerds like me out there who like to indulge their inner lexiconologists, make wordlists of all sorts, and then share them with the world. Wordnik is already a gathering place for said nerds, but since decentralization is the name of the game…

Flagging to “do this one day” when I have the motivation and focus to be a webmaster again, if no one else gets to it first. Also a good time to migrate all my wordlists (amassed over many years) onto my Micro.blog.

Hat-tip: @bradenslen and others’ very interesting blog posts about the revival of webrings. That’s neat, encouraging, and surreal – to see a staple of the early “1.0” Web being revived in this post-Web2.0 era.

🖋️ To silence the devil of Should.

Last night, desperate to meet a deadline I couldn’t put off anymore, I started writing again. Why, why, why did I let fear and performance anxiety block me up for two months. Writing is such a life-giving exercise, and getting back to my story and characters was like CPR to the soul. The fear dissolved and was replaced by joy and flow and energy. Why did I think a break was a good idea?

I revised 4 pages at the beginning of the story. Amidst that joy, I kept hearing the malicious whisper. Revising? Again? Unproductive! Why are you going over old territory when the best thing to do is finishing the novel? You are LATE, Vega. Two months late. You need to catch up and meet your goals.

Silence! Ah, not listening to that devil of Should who cracks the Whip of Expectations. I can’t listen to it anymore, because it sucks away the joy and leaves paralysis. I am amidst my stories and characters again, and that’s all that matters.

I jumped into my story at around 6pm. When I looked up, it was 2am. Four pages only, but four more than yesterday.

One day at a time.

Contemplating a timeline and the value of online presence.

I’ve been wondering how to bring humanity back into the act of Following Someone on Social Media, to add (or perhaps, recover?) that sense of “getting to know you” that comes when meeting a person in the flesh. So far, I’ve been sending “calling card” @’s to people whom I’m following: a greeting, and why I’m following them. I’m no longer idly clicking Follow, but actively approaching someone else to make a connection.

This active engagement with someone else has compelled me to consider the purpose of my timeline. What value and edification is a social media timeline adding to my life? What goods do I want it to add to my life? Therefore, what goods are this particular person’s social media presence adding to my life when I Follow them and allow them to appear on my timeline?

I came onto Micro.blog initially because I was attracted by its (micro)blogging capabilities, and its vision of creating a village in cyberspace. Now, I’m figuring out what this social arm of M.B means to me, how to engage with it, and to what degree I want to engage.

I’m still figuring it out. Not every interesting person I encounter on M.B is someone I necessarily want to Follow. I can always encounter them through Discover, and actively visit their M.B accounts. But Following a person… that is an active step of closer engagement. I’m no longer going to visit their accounts as and when I please, and then leave possibly without saying anything, but allowing them the privilege of pouring their digitized thoughts directly into my timeline and into my life. I value what they think and say. So, the least I could do is send a calling card.

💡Things I looked up and learnt today.

Apropos of a bag of potting mix, the head groundskeeper at my workplace told me about integrated pest management being developed in turf/soil/landscaping management. Instead of using pesticides, he spikes the soil with a certain sugar/molasses mix, to encourage the soil microbes and nematodes to grow and compete with each other. This way, nature works its own way and hopefully the good microbes outcompete the harmful ones. And mould/fungal growth in a bag of potting mix doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s gone “off”. It could be benign.
This gentleman is a wealth of knowledge, and happy to share it when asked. I have enormous respect for him.

Portraiture and busts/sculptures of Roman emperors, apropos of the carefully historical Emperors of Rome podcast. Julius Caesar, Augustus, Nero, Caligula, Trajan, Nerva, Vespasian, Hadrian…. These men may have been emperors but they looked rather normal. And unique: so much variety in their faces, it’s fascinating. These portraits put human faces to two-millennia-old historical figures: they are no longer disembodied and mythic names from antiquity, but became people. I’d never anticipated that just looking at pictures of busts of Roman emperors would transform my perception of those men like this. It’s refreshing.

Porphyry, (“purple” in Ancient Greek), is an igneous rock and was valuable in antiquity. Versus alabaster, which is a mineral: gypsum, and softer.

Epigrams (from Ancient Greek), pithy poetic form. One long line and one short line with a kicker/barb at the end.

Roman baths. (So much great world-building inspiration here.)

I’m not in a habit of posting links to books/games in my reviews, mostly out of sheer laziness. But, I did put links in my earlier game reviews because they were less familiar names. After giving it some thought, I’ve decided that whenever I link, as much as I can, I will link directly to the author’s or game’s website, instead of to a product page on Amazon/Steam/etc.

I don’t mind that other reviewers link to product pages, but I am not enthused by the thought of doing the same. I suppose I have a subconscious objection to associating my private blog to commercial and impersonal places. Furthermore, those product platforms didn’t create that entertainment, they’re just the middlemen distributing it. But because those platforms are so big, it’s very easy to forget that individuals and people created those works in the first place. So, while I’m thinking of small villages and houses within Internet-as-community, I’m even more determined to decouple creative works from the distributor and reattach it back to the creator by linking their websites whenever I write reviews.

After all, that’s the main way I’ve discovered artists and creative works, primarily through links and recommendations on other people’s websites and blogs. I don’t use Amazon and Steam and other distributors to discover, but rather to corroborate that initial discovery. So I do think they have their place and I appreciate that people put reviews there.

I won’t, though. I’d rather link to creators instead of distributors. Other people who click through to the creator can decide how to support them. And perhaps, discover a new thing for themselves.

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.

What I learnt from NaNoWriMo 2016.

As stated in my previous post, I began NaNoWriMo 2016 having done some character development, some world-building, and a rough outline of the first half of the planned story.  I trusted that I could figure out the rest of the story as I went.

I’ve learned a lot from this NaNo experience.

Continue reading What I learnt from NaNoWriMo 2016.

On the road to NaNo 2016, preparations.

October is typically “prep month” for NaNoWriMo.  Because I was finishing my latest draft of Strange Music, I didn’t start “prepping” for my NaNo novel until about two weeks before NaNo commenced.  So I had quite a bit to do in a hurry!

NaNo 2016 novel is A Long Gaze of Fire, and I decided to tackle a type of story I haven’t tried before: an epic fantasy.

All my previous stories have been small-scale affairs: the novellas (~25k words) Strange Music and A Dirge for the Amphiptere are, for all intents and purposes, one-room dramas with tight focus on character and where the MCs’ incompatible goals and inner struggles are the main sources of conflict.  My NaNo novels, Dragon Within (which I’ve written about on this blog) and Highland Story, have external conflicts but are also largely concerned with the MCs’ personal struggles.  Long Gaze would have a substantially larger scope: a big external conflict, bigger stakes, and a much larger cast with more complex interaction.

So, an epic fantasy is something quite out of my experience.  So, how does one prepare or plot out such a large-scale story?
Continue reading On the road to NaNo 2016, preparations.