joeldueckdotcom

Approaches to web publishing

1: Guard the future

One approach to publishing on the web: don’t lose your work to entropy; put in the work to preserve it. Take steps to ensure that whatever you make doesn’t just blink out of existence.

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 six years later.

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

2: Just cook

Another approach would be: Don’t fight the web’s ephemerality; 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. 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 try and preserve every meal you cook. Just keep cooking. You’re not cultivating food, you’re cultivating a skill, or an audience, or both.

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

This is the approach I’m revisiting on this site, which is Just a Fossil repo.