Notes On Hypertext

Okay, here’s a great chat with Nadia Asparouhova and Kicks Condor about writing mighty fine hypertext:

Someone (I think Eugene Wei?) once tweeted that all Twitter accounts eventually sound like fortune cookies. I don’t want to become a fortune cookie. So I like things like newsletters, and my notes page, which are still discoverable and semi-public, but aren’t subject to short feedback loops. I also removed comments on my blog for the same reason, and I never look at my site analytics.

She puts it better here than I ever could: beware short feedback loops on the internet! They are dangerous! As creators of fine hypertext products we need to look for the right kind of attention.

Nadia also chats about likes and how introducing them changes yer hypertext in curious ways:

The problem with likes is it naturally draws your eye towards the most-liked stuff, instead of deciding for yourself what’s most interesting. It almost feels like I’d be taking agency away from the reader by doing that.

I think that’s one quality of a good old blog; reader agency. I remember late nights roaming through my favorite blogs and I’d find something, a small trinket of the tiniest little poem, from way back in 2002. And because there were no likes or comments or anything attached to the post, I decided it was important.

Lucy and I talked about this last night — about the kind of attention you get from a newsletter vs. a blog and how a newsletter feels like a much more public space. Whereas a blog is all subterfuge and hidden under the mossy growth of a URL, a newsletter will kick in the front door, wave in the .44, etc.

So naturally you write differently depending on the platform because the public-ness changes how “seen” you feel. I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is do we fight that or should we bend to the platform?

Nadia links off to Venkatesh Rao’s Where the Wild Thoughts Are and, in that post, Rao talks about the future of monetizing their blog:

The blog is not about supporting the business and keeping it profitable. The business is about supporting the blog and keeping it free.

Hell yes! I hope that in the future—if money ever comes my way because of my writing—then I have Rao’s courage to say no to it like this.

This conversation about money reminds me of another chat with Lucy—this one—where we talked about homepages.

There’s an intro that I’ve come to loathe which welcomes you on every personal website: “hi! I’m xyz and I’m a blah in blah blah blah...” All personal websites have this same style and it’s why on my website I’ve tried to push away from that as hard as possible. Also, I kinda like that people have to hunt a little bit to figure out who I am.

So I was ranting to Lucy about that and she said, hey, some folks don’t have that same privilege of having a mysterious website. They have to make it easy for people to give them attention and figure out who they are because their livelihood depends on it.

This changed my perspective because, sure, it’s easy to say that when you don’t need money from your blog, when you have a stable day job. But when your website is your day job then everything about that relationship with your reader changes. And that’s not always a bad thing.

One last random thought from that post by Rao: he talks about websites as the wilderness. Which, of course, yes but also — what? He describes his relationship with his blog Ribbonfarm is not like a product he’s designed, but something else altogether:

Nature includes human beings and the things humans create, which means Muir’s idea that “none of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild” applies to human-created wildnernesses as well.

Ribbonfarm, I like to think in my more romantic moments, is one such human-created wilderness. If you ever find that it is getting less wild (wild as in woods, not as in “crazy”), warn me.

I adore this but it’s also something I fear deep-down. I want my website to feel like the world in Bloodborne or Sekiro, where you’re thrown into this fully-fledged universe and have no idea what the hell is going on and you have to read the description of a boot in your inventory to see the world clearly. I fear losing that feeling, or letting my website become paved-over or civilized or any less wild than it once used to be.

I want my website to permanently feel like the wilderness.