Joel Dueck·

Approaches to web publishing

One approach to web publishing is to treat it like an artisinal engineering challenge. The thinking goes: don’t let your work blink out of existence; design systems that make it durable and portable.

In 2015 I made a static site generator that is so static that the site it generates is also a printed book. I wrote up a whole rationale for this project:

Web pages are ghosts: they’re like images projected onto a wall. They aren’t durable. If you turn off the projector (i.e. web server), the picture disappears. If you know how to run a projector, and you can keep it running all the time, you can have a web site.

But as soon as there’s no one to babysit the projector, it eventually gets turned off, and everything you made with it goes away. If the outage is permanent, the disappearance is too. This is happening all the time, as servers fail, or companies are acquired and shut down.

So I figured out, and implemented, a possible solution to the web’s ephemerality problem. I still like this idea. So much so that I am still tinkering with it seven years later.

How to recognize an “engineered” publishing tool: there are “build steps”. Publishing tools that were designed with future-proofing in mind tend to be high in friction.

Another approach would be to treat web publishing like cooking. Don’t fight the web’s ephemerality; instead, focus on taking advantage of its reach. Publishing has a preservation all its own.

If you publish, you can get an audience, which means feedback, iteration and growth. On the web, the audience can be global and the feedback can be instant. Sure, the published stuff itself doesn’t last very long, but that’s fine. Don’t fight the medium. Don’t photograph the meal Just keep cooking. You’re not cultivating food; you’re cultivating a skill and an audience.

How to recognize a “cooking” publishing tool: you’re typing into a box in a web browser tab, and it takes only one button click for your thing to go live on the web instantly.