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Andrew Roach @ajroach42

I don't know what they are selling here, but this is a really interesting perspective on how the blog may be (partially?) responsible for the death of the weird web that we so often lament.

stackingthebricks.com/how-blog

· Web · 7 · 10

@ajroach42 Very fascinating. Especially to a "younger person" like me who arrived on the web in the MySpace era, and just recently is beginning to see the evils of chronological timelines.

@zatnosk @ajroach42 I read the whole article, and it appears to be a version of the common "destroyed X by making it easier to use" complaint. Granted, the author is complaining that MT and similar tools made specific things easier while not making other things easier, but that complaint applies to pretty much all tools. I think what they should be complaining about is the *absence* of other tools, not the proliferation of blogging software.

@freakazoid @zatnosk I read it less as Blogs destroyed the web by making the web easier to use and more Blogs destroyed a specific kind of website by making a different kind of website much easier to create.

The lack of tools is certainly the problem, and the number of small business websites I've seen (and worked on!) that were wordpress blogs with the blog turned off is a pretty strong indication that it's actually a problem.

@zatnosk @freakazoid Now, how big is the problem? How important is the problem? How much is the current situation a result of inertia and not much else? How do SSGs fit in to this (considering that the most popular SSGs are blogging platforms?)

@ajroach42 @zatnosk @freakazoid I also think we lost something big with the loss of FrontPage.

TBH, my dad still maintains his site in FrontPage 2003. He isn't doing anything that needs FrontPage Extensions, he just needs something that can simply maintain a hierarchy of pages, with word processor-like editing. And, that, it excelled at. Sure, it doesn't do it using modern best practices, but it does it.

@bhtooefr @freakazoid @zatnosk It always bothered me a lot that we never had a viable open source analog to Front Page.

@ajroach42 @zatnosk @bhtooefr I don't understand enough about FrontPage to even be able to think of stuff that came close, but Zope is the main thing that comes to mind. What would be the defining features of an open source replacement?

@freakazoid @bhtooefr
For the people I knew that were using frontpage, there were a few things that stood out about it.

1) - WYSIWYG webpage creation
2) - FTP integration similar to SMTP in outlook.

@bhtooefr @freakazoid (I know that sounds like a stretch, but the people that I talked to who depended on it described it in the same terms. You set it up when you got your website, and promptly forgot all about it. When you'd made updates to your website, you pressed "publish" or whatever, and it would upload the updates. )

@ajroach42 @bhtooefr Those seem like features possessed by both Aptana Studio and Bluefish. Are those just insufficiently easy to use or something?

@freakazoid @bhtooefr I never touched aptana studio, so I can't speak to that.

Bluefish is a code editor rather than a WYSIWYG editor, IIRC. When I was working with people who were moving away from frontpage, that's where I pushed them, but no one seemed to really *like* it, you know?

Most of those sites aren't online anymore, or haven't been updated in years, either way.

@bhtooefr @freakazoid Most of those sites were hosted through the hosting that came with your ISP package, and... well, that's not a thing anymore.

@ajroach42 @freakazoid The days when your internet service provider provided internet services...

@bhtooefr @ajroach42 On the one hand, that's probably for the best since it makes your ISP "stickier", but on the other it's also part of Internet access's being commoditized. I guess the real problem is that it needs to be a utility and not a commodity, so ISPs simply won't be a thing anymore.

@freakazoid @ajroach42 Yeah, I agree - there's a reason why ISP services died, nobody wanted their identity to be tied to ISPs.

The way ISPs worked made sense when your services were part of a community that you were also a member of, as in the university model that many early ISPs were copying. As a private enterprise, however, there isn't the cohesion of community required to make it make sense.

@freakazoid @ajroach42 Of course, there were also the monolithic online services like Compuserve, AOL, and Prodigy, but those failed too (not because of their monolithic nature, I suspect, but rather the fact that they were primarily focused on direct dial-up customers and didn't realize that monolithic social networks would eat their lunch).

Conversely, you have things like SDF and tilde sites, that explicitly try to develop community with ISP-like services.

@bhtooefr @ajroach42 I think having your ISP also be a community was necessary and useful in the beginning, but I think the communities you talk about are better because people choose them rather than just defaulting into them. Now we just need to make those more attractive to people than communities on Facebook.

@ajroach42 @bhtooefr @freakazoid

To briefly touch on the site creation issue: One thing Frontpage, SharePoint Designer 2007, ExpressionWeb did and Dreamweaver does but almost nothing else does is templates.

There are a handfull (five or fewer) surviving user friendly static HTML generators on Mac (no longer counting iWeb) but I haven't found anything good for win/linux.

There is Nvu but while that was good at authoring HTML docs, it was never good at "making web sites" in the holistic sense.

@ajroach42 @bhtooefr @freakazoid

This also worked well with the site sync stuff and you could update templates easily.

Without one of those tools (and running Expression-Web on Windows is still easy and MS has released it free) you wouldn't be able to build something like personal.stenoweb.net/slice-p- - which I built in Dreamweaver, fairly late (2009?) mainly because I'd been burned by wordpress a couple of times by then.

DW CC still does this, but, it's costly to buy and DW is aimed higher now.

@ajroach42 @bhtooefr @freakazoid

Finally read the article!

I realize there's multiple ways to read into this, but the first half of it definitely reads to me as (an attitude I see a lot, esp. in vintage computing scenarios) "computers were better before they were accessible to normal people" -- not a good look, IMO.

The article also ignores the number of other tools that were available to do this work, and I think mis-identifies the problem that turned off people from putting stuff up.

@ajroach42 @bhtooefr @freakazoid

Firstly, I think the actual problem is that it wasn't blogs, blogging, or movable type that killed "the old web" -- I think what killed the first generation of "amateur reference librarians" was switching costs.

Understandable since up through 2001 at least the only other suitable tool for doing what those people probably wanted -- maintaining their pages easier -- was Dreamweaver, which would've cost $400 or more.

@ajroach42 @bhtooefr @freakazoid

flubbed the thread.

These tools eventually started to exist, I mentioned iWeb, FP was made frontpage free in 2007, The old MS PWS was a step in what was probably almost the right direction by giving people some forms to fill out inside the web server program.

A better situation would have been if inexpensive tools like Claris Home Page and the like had more flexible templating tools and allowed post-creation updates.

@ajroach42 @bhtooefr @freakazoid

But from my perspective overall it's a bad look to go "the web was originally supposed to be x, but now people are also doing y so it's ruined" when y is actually a subset of x anyway.

And, yeah, it's a shame that some of those early users were lost to transition costs because nobody really built a good tool for what they were doing until it was too late.

I'd argue we have those tools today, in the form of, all I've mentioned, along with wikis.

@coryw @freakazoid @bhtooefr I agree that it's a bad look, but it's also a perspective I'd never considered.

I never thought about why the Blog was the dominant metaphor for the web, you know?

Most of the conclusions in that piece are pretty far fetched, but it still has me questioning some assumptions I didn't know I was making.

@ajroach42 @bhtooefr @freakazoid

It's worth thinking about content classification, etc. I used a wiki for a few years and I found that the ability to arrange things very free-form led to some different decision than people I saw who had blogs were makng. For example, I had a few articles on specific issues I would just update (and the wiki showed update history) instead of rewriting every year, a habit I've fallen back into now that I have something a little more traditionally bloglike.

@ajroach42 @bhtooefr @freakazoid

I don't strictly think rewriting on ideas is a bad idea, vs. updating a more static page -- both are good strategies for updating a text.

One of my issues with static articles on sites with the explicit choice never to date anything is some content really works best with dates. It's probably good to know if someone's tutorial for installing mediawiki is from ten years ago, for example.

That doesn't mean the article has to be in a chronostream though.

@ajroach42 @freakazoid Also don't forget the whole thing about automatic hierarchy - you could just drag and drop pages into a tree, and it would automatically figure out all of the navigation for everything. Just put navigation bars in the sidebars.

@ajroach42 @bhtooefr I'll throw all that into my "like emacs but fully embracing its true nature as an operating system" thing.