What's in a Website?


Tended to:

One must imagine Sisyphus happy rebuilding his website yet again...
One must imagine Sisyphus happy rebuilding his website yet again...

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i’m a bit of an expert when it comes to rebuilding my personal site. i’m pretty sure it’s happened just about every single year from the first year i could use the internet.

in the past, this has often been done using whatever WYSIWYG-style editor is hot at-that-moment, but those have always felt fundamentally super limiting, and i found myself switching services in a matter of months so that i could make use of some feature or ability offered by one platform and not another. the web is a canvas of infinite possibility, and website builders feel so artificially restrictive if you want to bring any amount of imagination to a web interface.

additionally, my previous websites have always very strictly been “portfolio websites,” as i would guess the personal websites of most people in my field are. i would try to extend the portfolios with elements/areas of playfulness here and there, but a big mental hurdle to get past was that i am not actually looking for some hyper-polished career-climbing representation of myself online, i’m looking for a place to play.

so, when i saw google domains (R.I.P.) announce the release of a new .mov top-level domain, it felt like the right time to jump on buying the coolest personal domain i could imagine, and building a website fit for such a domain.

these are some of the following themes & principles i’ve been considering as i’ve built this website.

playgrounds over portfolios

the conventional use for a personal website these days is as a portfolio, especially if you work as a creative. all of my previous websites tried to fit this mold.

but as i grew up, my creative skillsets morphed alongside me. sometimes i was a professional photographer, sometimes an indie filmmaker. i first tried graphic design, but then worked as a product designer. i made filmmaking technology tools, but did that make me a filmmaker, or a technologist, or a secret third thing? and then where, in all this mess, was i supposed to put web pages about just cool shit i was interested in that had nothing to do with my career.

portfolios are always made for someone else. and as such, you present a buttoned-up and narrowly-focused version of yourself trying to win someone’s attention in the hope of getting new work.

but i’m at a point in my work where my website will almost never result in my next job just from incoming traffic. why then, was i still trying to build a portfolio to support this mindset?

as i started gathering examples of personal websites that intrigued me, it became clear that these were websites in which people showed off their work in depth, but they weren’t portfolio sites. these were sites where the creators did a lot of writing, but they weren’t blogs.

the term that felt the most fitting is that these were sites which were personal playgrounds: pockets of the web in which one can explore diverse topics in great depth and experiment with the infinite possibility of the web in order to help themselves think differently, or just more clearly.

getting hands-on

a significant development since my last website and this one is that i now work at a startup working on a web app (previously i’d worked on desktop apps in large teams) and now felt a greater responsibility to be able to contribute in some form to the actual product building side of our work.

luckily, it’s truly a golden age of web technologies. so many ways to accomplish so many things, and faster than ever.

but i don’t really have the time to fully immerse myself in web development in the style of something like a bootcamp.

my growth in web development skillsets needs to happen in parallel with my actual work, which takes enough focus on its own. and it need to be able to work on pieces of our product in small chunks that don’t cascade breaking changes across the app.

the obvious solution before diving into checking in code to production at work was to have a sandboxed space using many of the same technologies we use as a team.

Just like www.sequence.film, www.parker.mov is a Svelte-based web application, deployed on Vercel, with a myriad of similar technologies in between them.

Using this, it’s become so much easier to goof around on my personal site as much as I want, and then find myself better able navigate contributing new work to my startup’s product.

the netstalgia of an internet neighborhood

i spoke at one point in a video essay about feeling an intense nostalgia for an era of the web just before my time. i grew up hearing stories of this intensely personal, charmingly janky, and expertly curated version of the web filled with GeoCities pages and always-active message boards.

but i grew into an adult in a world obsessed with social feeds from just a few websites dominating the world, asking for millions upon millions of users to turn their unique perspective into Hot Content that can fit neatly into boring little boxes on a scrolling feed delivered to you by The Great Algorithm.

this version of the web has its upsides, and it has done more than any one personal website ever could to show how the internet can be a place that supercedes time & space. however, the people have grown weary…

more and more people seem to be chasing this web of the past. you’ll see it called many names: indie web, slow web, cozy web, knowledge networks, digital gardens, etc. — these are all speculative futures for A New Internet.

and once you start to notice these qualities of A New Internet, you start to see there’s almost a whole little neighborhood of sites popping up to fill this space.

i want to be in that neighborhood, living online in a vibrant neighborhood of cyber friends taking control on their online identities and carving out a corner of the web to call home.

Web Design as Architecture

rabbit holes & niche audiences

by viewing my website as a playground within a neighborhood of curated corners of the internet, i can start to approach what it contained within it differently.

writing/creating for yourself allows you to explore the depths of rabbit holes in a way you never would if you were writing for a general audience, but that doesn’t mean the audience isn’t there still.

it’s my website, i can do what i want

one of the most difficult realties to embrace as a person who professionally works in web & app design is that for as many ways as we can think of to make our work fun or push the boundaries of interfaces, most work needs to actually be grounded & easily digestible by the widest audience possible.

this isn’t a bad thing. common patterns make it easier to understand how to interact with computers across surfaces, and standards like the web accessibility guidelines make sure our work impacts every person who wants to view it.

i’m not advocating we break away from those in products and generalist websites, but in fitting with the theme of this website being a playground more than portfolio, this is a space for playing around with ideas without a care of external markers to compare it against.

i can take standard components like video player and make them glow, because i like glowy things. i can use standard patterns like blockquotes in markdown, and render them as interactive source quotes that link back to their origin.

the web is my oyster!

Grow a New Internet

anyways, that’s a high-level look at how i am approaching this website. looking forward to continue to jam on it over time!

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