On digital gardens, blogs, personal sites

published 2023-08-30
last updated 2023-08-30

If I decide to come back and edit a page, I will. If I decide something sucks, I'll trash it. But my philosophy is that I'm building a personal archive. It's like a digital garden, but less pretty, even less organised, and less public. Almost like digital scrapbooking. This site is... a digital garage, if you will, with an open door.

Sites, blogs, wikis, gardens, garages. These are all ways of saying, "I'm existing publicly online."

Personal sites of course got eclipsed by social media because of accessibility, features, and discoverability. Social media is free. Social media is easy. Social media is featureful. Protocols alone can't compete with the curated experience of a closed webapp, not yet, unless we had some intermediary service or client to smooth the experience. Maybe RSS and ActivityPub can be combined into a clientside "social media-like" application. The next twitter.

Micro.Blog, BearBlog.dev, et al -- these are great attempts to solve all three of these problems. The issue is that they are still closed systems, and as long as you have closed systems you're playing a lame popularity game.

And who pays? I think the user should, with clauses for data privacy and security. Ideally it keeps everyone honest. But I know there are still issues even with that business model.

The main issue is that everyone would need to buy their own domain for this to work, which at this point is tricky to configure if you're not a nerd-o. So this theoretical application/service would also need to be a domain registrar. But then we're back at square one again with the power being centralised in one organisation. Maybe a GUI standard for DNS editing can be created. Or maybe you'll just have to trust someone eventually. Maybe who we're trusting stops mattering at a deep level of abstraction, for pragmatic purposes?

Or legislation. Yeah, probably that.

At the end of the day we can't truly own a digital property. We're all simply renting one for a long time. Kind of like we're simply leasing life. Keep screaming on, you beautiful comets.

My approach is to go back to basics. Just serve HTML pages. Tech has to be as elegant as possible in order for it to be actually useful. The reason I use Lektor is because it's one of the lightest static site generators I could find, in the sense that it has the least amount of files and configuration for me to manage. Here is the complete hughbagandotcom.lektorproject configuration file for this site:

name = hughbagandotcom
url = https://hughbagan.com

lektor-atom = 0.4.0
lektor-tags = 0.5.1

Those two plugins there have similarly small config files, but as for boilerplate, that's all!

And the great part about the web is that you don't even need that. Just write some raw HTML and upload it to your host.

Discoverability is still an issue. Indieweb, webrings, ActivityPub. I could use those. But until an elegant solution presents itself I will satisfy with merely linking to my own pages elsewhere. Who knows, maybe someone walking down the street will come up the driveway to see what I'm working on.