Google is getting worse1. Twitter is imploding2. Reddit is at war with its volunteer moderators. Facebook is doing… whatever Facebook is doing. It feels like the major hubs for “internet culture”, if such a thing can be said to exist, are reaching the later stages of “enshittification” at the same time.
In my corner of the internet, the reaction to this apparent trend has been a call to go back to the old ways—or at least our rosiest memories of what the internet was like before it was like this. Often at the heart of these calls is the notion that people should be making our own websites again. In this spirit, I’ve shuffled a few things around on my neglected personal site, and naturally I’m blogging about it.
First I put some effort into taxonomizing my posts. This has been a de facto data science blog for several years, and I’m not sure whether I’ll stick with that or branch out. Now, anybody who might want to hear what I say about about data science—but not other things—can head to the web page or RSS feed for that category and ignore everything else. If I start writing about home improvement projects, ham radio3, baseball, or whatever, I don’t have to feel like I’m letting anybody down. Next, I changed URIs so that they don’t contain date strings, and I tweaked the theme so that it would display things by update-order. I like writing how-tos (I do it often for work and personal projects) and I hope to share more of them here. But how-tos can quickly become stale, so I want to make it obvious which ones are and are not out-of-date and encourage myself to fix the former.
As web search feels less reliable, I’m using browser bookmarks more often. This reminded me to take the time to set up HTTP redirects for everything I moved, in the off chance that anybody does bookmark anything here. The RSS feeds4 also carry full posts, so folks don’t have to leave their reader if they don’t care to.
Finally, I updated the look. I’m using a slightly modified version of the readable theme for Hugo, which is itself built around the readable.css CSS framework. I appreciate the philosophy of the project, and I think it looks nice too. I’m grateful to CJ and Benjamin for their efforts in leading these projects, and all the contributors for helping improve them.
Some of the above probably makes me sound like a curmudgeon, but the thing is: I still like the internet. A lot! The tradition of building personal websites where people can share their interests (and obsessions) has been one of the most charming and useful phenomena on the internet since its inception. I realize that I’ll never really be “a blogger”, and that’s fine. I don’t have to post regularly or “develop an audience” in order to participate in this tradition.
I’m not a Freakonomics listener, but I’m linking to them here because it’s validating when folks with a worldview slightly different than your own acknowledge a social phenomenon you’ve experienced. I do think they missed an important point in this episode however: Google’s conflict of interest not only lies with the ads they show in search results, but also in the ads they display on other people’s websites (according to Google, 35 million websites comprise the “Google Display Network”). Most of the spammy pages on the internet exist to show people ads (a problem likely to become worse as LLMs produce more human-like text), and down-ranking pages that are full of ads would be a sensible approach to curbing this problem. But Google can’t do that, because they would lose money if they did. ↩︎
No citation needed. ↩︎
I skipped the Technician and picked up my General class license last year. So far I’ve participated in some local nets and helped provide radio support for an event, but I haven’t gotten on HF yet. ↩︎