"The PC on Wall Street." PC Mag june 1983

New year; new blog

Hello friend,

Happy 2021 and thanks for keeping up with the ever evolving progression of this experiment. 2020 was the dumpster fire that gave more flame than than anyone could have expected, or would have asked for. Toward the end of 2019, I'd ditched Wordpress for Hugo and went on to created all of 3 blog posts. It was an exhausting year. Working on other people's problems was more than enough. I mostly ignored my own. 

This year, I'm starting with Publii, which is an open source app that generates flat-sites. It's part of my continuing search for website publishing systems that securely keep the back end (the place where people create the content) away from the front end (where people show the content), are light on the server, and easy on the user. Wordpress has become bloated and too much of an attack target. The CMS is borderline adware and the "community" of developers is becoming more of a flea market of poorly constructed design themes and plugins that are patchy, bloated and hackable.

Hugo was all right. Create and edit posts in a text file and then with a few commands new content is up on the website. It's easy to secure, can run blazingly fast websites and be hosted nearly anywhere, lowering costs amazingly. Ticked a lot of my static-site requirements. Except one. It isn't for end users, or at least how I define them. An end user is someone who wants to open an app, type their content, hit save or publish and see it on the site. Wordpress does this, just horribly from every other point of view. But it's what people expect. Hugo, Jekyll, Gatsby and the like are for people who want to endlessly tinker with code and templates and refine their git workflows. They just move the complexities elsewhere.  So, I'm trying out Publii, which is in an app. It's doing a lot of things those other static site generators are doing, but the user doesn't need to see them or carry out each operation. It also opens with a wysiwyg editor that authors will expect, and somewhat obvious settings and configuration options. There seems to be not much of a developer or designer community to speak of, though.

So like each time I do this, I start out minimal, and wipe what came before. I believe in the permeable web, the volatile one. The web that forgets. The non-centralised, federated services one. Sure, we need that archiving internet, the one with tracking and accountability for our governments, leaders (be they political, corporate, religious or social) and all these caches, backups and searchable systems that keep the receipts. For a lot of the rest of us, though, we need one that is more like a sand mandala. Something that gives us the privacy, security, and most importantly, the space to experiment and either maintain, iterate or wipe: no harm; no foul.

Unfortunately, the inverse is more commonly the case. Kids say dumb things on Instagram and it chases them into the starts of their careers. Videos meant for one set of eyes get immortalised for all eyes for all time. Humans aren't designed for the web we have. It's not sense in blaming the user. It makes as much sense as blaming jellyfish for beaching themselves on the outgoing tide. The situation moves faster than our survival instincts. We should still be sitting somewhere in a savannah staring into the middle distance with an expression that implies more significant thought than what's really going on. Parts of our brains have developed a world that other parts of our brains can'd deal with. So cut yourself some slack. You aren't even supposed to be here today. None of us are.

We're still calling the site Treacherous Tech, because the it still suits the overall point: The promises of a gloriously interconnected world of social media, IoT sex toys and door bells that can spy on the comings and goings in front of your house all come with ToS catches. There are stings attached, monetisation efforts and ever expanding threat surface. We inflict  all this on ourselves in order to have dopamine rushes from people clicking ♥️ on our selfies and to get garlic peelers on the same day we click the order button. Technology keeps its promises, so be sure you know what it's promising.

But I digress.

I already prefer the editing interface of publii. It's a little buggy and unfinished in parts. It feels more like a word processor than a CMS. I like that the drafts are mine, here on this local machine, before I publish them on some server somewhere, even in draft mode. I like that I don't need to launch the terminal and manually chug through git processes just to make each blog post. It's got a slightly wonky interface and I don't think all the buttons are labeled that well, and I think it could benefit from some usability love, but early days.

I'm using the default theme this CMS comes with (there aren't many alternatives), so don't expect much on that front. I don't care much how it looks. It's just a thing to write into. A bit more FOSS and self-hosted than Medium. A bit less faff than a Wordpress or Drupal or Hugo site. I think it needs work, but it is definitely suitable for a single-person blog. It's kind of the slacker option.

It's a new year, and I'm taking the easy route. There's enough going on with a pandemic, a Brexit, some chump in the White House who can't take a hint. Another year or so in doors. Go easy on yourself, too.

Happy new year,

Yours truly.

This article was updated on 12 January 2021