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Meta The Internet Websites Writing

A decentered argument as website

This whole website nicely complements what I was contemplating recently about blogs.

Some relevant pages:

The bookness of books

Toward a nonlinear essay

You won’t find an instruction manual for writing a nonlinear essay in any of the pieces in this collection. And you won’t find a full argument for writing differently in any single piece, either. But my hope is that both of those things will arise out of the whole collection.

On the virtues of hypertext

In other words, the links matter more than the text.

Brown contrasts the glories of the hypertext web with the relative order of the the social media feed. The feed corrals the unkempt wildness of the web and organizes it all into a nice little stream, filtering out all the noise…

Categories
Cool Technology The Internet Websites

A website devoted to NYC internet infrastructure

Liked Seeing Networks in New York City by Ingrid Burrington (seeingnetworks.in)

New York’s network infrastructure is a lot like the city itself: messy, sprawling, and at times near-incomprehensible. However, the city’s tendency toward flux is a strange blessing for the infrastructure sightseer: markings and remnants of the network are almost everywhere, once you know how to look for them.

And book!

It’s fun to stumble on dedicated little web projects like this. It’s such a niche project that only someone who really cared would bother making it.

Makes me think of a tweet I saw recently that the world is basically made of people’s random passion projects.

Categories
Society Websites

Blogs are a platform for normal people

Replied to Understanding blogs | Tracy Durnell by Murray Adcock.Murray Adcock. (theadhocracy.co.uk)

I am a big fan of categorisation debates, so the concept of trying to define what a “blog” is (or isn’t) piqued my interest.

Further exploring what makes a blog a blog — which I agree I haven’t quite landed on yet:

The fact that blogs take the form of a building argument, not necessarily voicing their intent or conclusion immediately, but instead guiding the reader through the narrative to naturally arrive at that conclusion. I agree wholeheartedly with this take, but I’m not sure that this is the essence of “blog-ness”. I think that’s just how people actually talk when given a platform.

(Emphasis mine.)

This connects back to the democratization of self-publishing, leading to greater influence of oral culture (as you point out).

The word “given” here got me thinking — like the soapbox example, blogging is when people create and claim a platform for themselves. The work is self-motivated. No one’s telling us what to blog about. It’s not fulfilling an assignment. The things people blog about are the things they care about enough to spend their free time considering.

And because it’s not “for a purpose,” because it’s self-directed, a blog post needn’t fit a formal format. A lot of blogging really is ‘talking through ideas’ in text, in real time — the thinking and writing happen together. (Or at least it is for me, though I’m sure it’s not the universal blogging experience 😉) Even when a post is edited before publishing to center a specific conclusion reached through the drafting, a tenor of curious exploration or earnest passion often carries through.

That’s part of what makes a lot of content marketing so vapid and noxious: not only is it hollow of meaning, but it’s uninteresting signalling barely disguised as thought. It’s the writer regurgitating what they believe other people want to read about, or what they think will make them sound smart or good or clever. (Not that self-motivated blogging doesn’t have some measure of this, as all public writing does, but blog posts generally don’t feel calculated and perfunctory the way many churn pieces do.)

Blogs tend to be personal spaces (or places attempting to make themselves appear personal, as with brand/ business blogs) that give a person or persons a platform, but one which they want others to consider.

(Emphasis mine.)

This makes me think of imitation bees: the corporate blog tries to pass itself off as a Real Blog by looking like one at first glance, then once you start reading you suspect ‘someone’s been hired to write this’… A lack of feeling, an unwillingness to voice opinions, an empty ‘we’, a cautious and bland tone, become apparent when writers produce for a brand that wants to gain the SEO benefits of a blog without risking expressing any personality. They want to give the appearance of sharing knowledge and participating in community and conversation, but those are positive externalities to their goals of drawing traffic, building reputation, and ultimately selling widgets. I wonder whether I’m being too inclusive in accepting everything that claims to be a blog as a blog…

Categories
Meta The Internet Websites

Understanding blogs

As we in the IndieWeb promote personal websites and encourage more people to write and publish online, and nostalgia for blogs and RSS is high, it’s useful to hone in on what exactly we’re talking about when we say blog.* Because, despite being a form of writing for more than 20 years, blogging is surprisingly hard to pin down.**

There are just a few truly defining characteristics of a blog:

  • Content is published in the form of posts, typically presented in reverse chronological order
  • Content is posted on a website, online, with hypertextual capabilities
  • Blogs are “self-published,” regardless of hosting platform, in that there is no gatekeeper authorizing publication

And yet, I think what makes a blog a blog is more than these technicalities; what makes a book a book is not merely “prose text, more than 50,000 words in length, on a single thesis or theme, collected in a single volume.” Printing off a long blog and binding it together does not necessarily a book make; for one, books are weighted towards linear reading — start to finish — while blog posts do not have to be read in the order they were originally published.

There are elements of bookness that make us say, this is a book. So what is blogness? From one of the many ‘yay let’s blog again’ posts everyone’s blogging about right now (which I enjoy), I wound up on a 2003 post trying to define what a blog is — but it addresses mainly the technical elements and the structure of the content. Blogging as a medium evolved out of the combination of technology and tools used; here, I’m interested in digging into how the writing and format are different from other mediums.

I’m a fan of graphic novels, and consider them a different medium than prose books; it pisses me off that graphic novels and graphic non-fiction are shelved with the comic strips at my library under 741.5. So I wonder: are blogs a distinct enough format to be their own top-level medium, or are they simply a hypertextual version of essay collections or newspapers?*** Where would you shelve blogs in the library: do they get mixed in with the books by topic, do they get their own call number as graphic novels do, are they thrown in with the periodicals, or do they go in their own section? @DavidShanske I’m sure you have an opinion here 😉

Categories
Meta Websites

How to add sidenotes to my website

Bookmarked Making semantic sidenotes without JavaScript (Koos Looijesteijn)

Sidenotes can make a plain text richer. Here’s how you can implement them with HTML and CSS alone.

It was surprisingly difficult to find info about implementing sidenotes rather than endnotes. This page lists a lot more implementation options.

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The Internet Websites

Pass it on

Bookmarked Rewilding Your Attention (CJ Eller)

Tom’s message makes me realize that rewilding attention is an active practice. One must not only pursue those tiny signals but share them as well, whether that means writing about them on your blog or by word of mouth. The only way the tiny signal can keep on resonating throughout the web is if we keep passing it on.

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network.

— Tom Critchlow, Small b blogging

Categories
Websites Writing

Investing time in longform writing

Liked Novelist as a Vocation by Robin Rendle (robinrendle.com)

As I was reading Murakami’s book I realized that I’ve trained myself for a certain kind of writing: short, tiny things that are self-contained. They only take an hour or two to write as I’m so focused on the production of writing (getting a blog post or newsletter out into the world) that I tend to ignore what these things might be if I gave them a bit more time. Writing for me is a rushed, hurried thing; something to be done on a plane or at the back of a cafe. My writing is frantic, sporadic, infrequent.

This tends to be how I blog; longer pieces that need more than one writing session molder in my drafts folder. I have 40 unfinished posts there now.

I need a process for returning to them and finishing them. Because rushing to cross it off my mental list can mean I’m not giving ideas the time they need to process.

Categories
Technology Websites

WordPress-powered email newsletter service

Bookmarked Mail Poet by Quentin FreryQuentin Frery (mailpoet.com)

The Best Email Plugin for WordPress More than 500,000 websites are using MailPoet to keep in touch with their subscribers. Enjoy everything in one place. MailPoet works seamlessly with your favorite CMS so you can start sending emails right now. Quickly add content and images directly from your media library. No need to upload files […]

Categories
Meta Music Websites

How I re-created my Spotify playlists on my website

I created a list of my annual birthday playlists since 2002.

For this process, I used a third party program to extract the data, Excel to format it, and CSS to style it. I’m assuming you’ve used formulas in Excel before so you can plug in the appropriate cells, and have written simple HTML and CSS.

Getting the data

  1. I used Exportify to download a .csv file of all my Spotify playlists.
  2. Columns included that I used in this process:
    • Track Name,
    • Artist Name,
    • Album Release Date,
    • Album Name,
    • Album Image URL

Track list

I used the CONCATENATE function in Excel to compile the HTML list to paste into WordPress. You could do this all in one step; I did it in multiple steps so I could experiment with showing different things, and so the cell didn’t get crazy long.

  1. I created a column with the link to the track:
    =CONCATENATE("<span class=",CHAR(34),"h-cite track",CHAR(34),"><span class=",CHAR(34),"p-name tracktitle",CHAR(34),">",[CELL WITH SONG TITLE],"</span> by <span class=",CHAR(34),"p-author artist bandname",CHAR(34),">",[CELL WITH ARTIST NAME],"</span></span>")
  2. I created another column that created the list item that I could paste into WordPress:
    =CONCATENATE("<li>",B2,"</li>")

To keep the page from being super long, I added the track list to the page using the <details> property, which allows it to be clicked on and expanded. Then I used CSS to style “details > summary” to look like a link so people know to expand it.

Adding Microformats

I also included (experimental) microformats based on what I use for my books. Microformats allow other programs to correctly interpret specific types of data, such as a book or (in this case) song citation. No program currently reads microformatted playlists, but I figured better to do it now than wish I had done it later 😉 Once it’s done, the odds I’d go back and update it are low. I picked my own microformats because there is no accepted standard.

The microformats I used were:

  • For the whole listing: “h-cite track”
  • For the track name: “p-name tracktitle”
  • For the artist name: “p-author artist bandname”

Apparently only the h- and p- values will actually be parsed so you could omit the other values.

Because microformats are added as classes, it also gives you an opportunity to style specific parts of the text. I chose to style the track title.

Year data

  1. I extracted the year data from their format by adding a column with this formula:
    =TEXT(I2,"YYYY")
  2. I calculated the number of songs per year by using COUNTIF:
    =COUNTIF(J$2:J$23,I25)
    where J2 through J23 contains the year data (created in step one), and I25 is a cell with the year in plain text. Adding the $ signs in the source data range is important so you can drag the formula down without it also shifting the source cells.

Graph by year

I followed this tutorial to create a stacked bar graph. Because I wanted multiple graphs on a page, I substituted class instead of id. I also used inline CSS for the grid display properties so I could define a different fractional breakdown for each graph.

Album art

The data included a link to the album art hosted by Spotify’s CDN. I created a column that created the image link with alt text:
=CONCATENATE("<img src=",CHAR(34),[CELL WITH ALBUM ART URL],CHAR(34)," width=",CHAR(34),"50px",CHAR(34)," alt=",CHAR(34),[CELL WITH ALBUM NAME]," by ",[CELL WITH ARTIST NAME],CHAR(34)," />")

Categories
Art and Design Resources and Reference Websites

Resources for learning about accessibility

Bookmarked Accessibility Resources (nicksimson.com)

The links below have helped me in my ongoing accessibility education. Most of these are beginner-friendly entry points to what can be a broad and sometimes complex topic.

A11y is a compact abbreviation for accessibility with 11 (eleven) representing the count of letters between the letter a and the letter y.

😅 I’ve seen A11y before and thought it was leet speak for “ally,” calling out the common problem of 1s looking like lowercase l’s in some typefaces. This… makes more sense 😂