Against the Grain.
The Internet is becoming a very boring place. I’m a young guy, just barely old enough to remember a time before the Internet was commonplace, and yet I’ve grown up with it as a fundamental part of my life. Hard to imagine there was a time when you couldn’t just Google (as a verb!) the answer to any question your little heart could dream up. This was a time of message boards and forums. When I was bored, I’d go on my computer and cycle through the ten or so websites I frequented, to see if anything new had been added. And if there wasn’t anything new, any new threads to comment on or blogs to read, I’d turn the computer off.
As time went on, the uniqueness of these sites started to fade. Not that you couldn’t host something on your own, but why would you when you could just have a Facebook page, which is already full of users that are familiar with that particular platform? The forums died and mostly became Reddit. Same with the fan-sites, the development blogs. Things broke down, became more even, more standard. People like standard. It makes them feel safe. It makes them comfortable. It says, you know how this works, and you know how to interact with it. And one by one, we made bricks from the stones.
Two interesting pieces have come out recently about this phenomenon, one by Dan Nosowitz and one by Leah Finnegan (whose “Leah Letter” was the highlight of my Tuesdays a year or two ago). Seriously, what the fuck is the Internet for? What do you do on the Internet besides load up your social media drug of choice, hope for a hit of dopamine, and log off? The Internet is both wonderful and perhaps the most important modern invention, and simultaneously a plague on our society. We just have to learn to use it better. Make the future we want to see; is your future on Facebook?
When I started Monochromatic almost two years ago, it was with this goal in mind. I wanted to build a corner of the web that not only hosted my words and ideas, but that was an interesting artifact in itself. Of course, it’s a Squarespace site and falls into their schema and designs, so it isn’t like I wrote it from scratch (though I have written websites from nothing before), but it was mine.
Yet even I feel myself fall into some of the same traps. I focused lately on writing pieces I thought people would read, something sharable. I tried to hit arbitrary posting goals. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this; there’s a reason why these practices exist. But I think in applying them to my own website I lost something of my original goal. Let’s work on that.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a website, must be in want of redesigning that website.
— Rutherford Craze (@rutherfordcraze) May 6, 2018
If you hit the homepage now, you’ll see I’ve changed it again slightly. Now, I’ve got the most recent post up top, front and center, and a smaller spot for a featured post. Then, everything else I’ve written follows that. I’m going to try and branch out, writing more of my thoughts and what’s on my mind, more bloggy writing, more essays, etc. Less scheduled, more sporadic. I’d like to try and keep to posting pieces at 7am, as I like the idea that people can check in the morning, read something on the train, and go about their day.
I appreciate when people share my writing, but that’s not my goal. I just want to write things that resonates with people. I value any time someone responds in the comments or on Twitter or whatever. I want to make a website that is full of interesting ideas in the construction alone. I want to write something small more often, rather than bigger, flatter pieces.
For examples of the content I’d like to write, take a look at 1101.com (Writing in Japanese), by Shigesato Itoi. He’s posted something to it every single day since it’s inception, and the writing hosted there is beautiful, sparse, and resonant. As for the type of website I’d like to make, look at Devine Lu Linvega’s lovely xxiivv.com. Before I’d ever interacted with Devine personally, I remember loading up the site and being awed by it. It seems like some vast, unknowable object, that you could get lost in, an elegant and byzantine library.
I’ve still got the splash, though of course I load directly into the homepage now. I found that a lot of my traffic hit the splash screen and went no further, and I wanted to immediately offer an audience a piece to read. But now I’m less sure. Maybe it’s time to bring the splash back? What do you think?
Finally, I’ve joined Devine’s webring. You may have noticed this little icon on the bottom of the page:
This will take you to the webring’s main page. A webring is an old internet creation. It’s a group of websites featuring some sort of connection to one another. In this case, that bond is largely through aesthetics and intention. Devine had been feeling the same way I have been, and reached out to me to invite me to join. You can read more about the project here.
These things won’t change overnight, just as it takes years for a tree to take root and thrive. Yet, it’s worth taking the steps to make the Internet the place we want to see, and a community we want to participate in. Being on the Internet has opened my eyes to a wealth of information I’d never have come in contact with otherwise, made me friends across continents and languages, and helped me become who I am today. Now let’s make sure it’s worth visiting in the future.