Blogging and Atrophy

Jeremy’s post about his first decade with Twitter made for interesting reading, particularly in how he compares the use of that service to the longevity of his website:

I’m not sure if my Twitter account will still exist ten years from now. But I’m pretty certain that my website will still be around.

Alternatively, it concerns me that folks in the Bay Area tend to treat their websites as business cards instead of archives, as Jeremy suggests. Many designers and developers that I’ve met believe personal websites are constrained to a lonely paragraph of text that only clarifies what they do for a living.

At the moment I think about my website from two angles: as a stream and an archive.

A Stream

This is how I’ve organised /notes—they’re tiny bundles of information that don’t really have to go anywhere or do anything. There’s no pressure to polish the language, it’s a stream of consciousness that can be fine tuned and edited into tip-top shape later on.

Ideally these pieces of text are what I think of as design-agnostic. If I change the typeface or the background or add crazy animations to the page then the text itself won’t mean something different. The text is fluid and isn’t dependent on complicated graphics and other bits of UI to illustrate a point.

An Archive

This is where I put all of the information that often takes twelve months or so to research, edit, and design — this is how I’ve organised /essays for now. These blocks of text are heavily dependent on a specific, custom layout. In order to preserve the longevity of notes I make a brand new stylesheet for each essay, purchase the fonts indefinitely and host them locally, before I throw away the key and never touch the code again. That way, none of that essay code and styles will infect the notes I write.

This point of view requires a different approach to design in general though: How can I ensure that my work is still available, and accessible, for decades into the future, I wonder. How can I protect this little piece of the web, place my stamp on it, and preserve it as best I can?

In early 2013 I decided that I would never delete anything from my site again. Even if it was painfully banal or just plain silly, everything was going to remain in place for as long as possible. Yet slowly, over time, I’m watching these bigger essays that I write break down. Certain features no longer work in browsers as I once remember them; atrophy has set in and it’s like watching the text sink slowly into a thick pool of mud.

And that’s ok. Things are going to change over the decades, considering this website will likely outlast many platforms and social networks and browsers.

Hopefully my website will even outlive me, too. That’s because I don’t want my presence online to resolve into a tacky business card once I’m gone — I’m an XYZ in San Francisco — instead, I want it to be an archive of everything that I’ve ever thought was worth keeping around. All the things I’ve pointed at, linked to, discussed, argued about. Once I’m gone I want this place to be an archive of all the things I’ve ever loved, even if they were messy and fragile and a little broken.