I remember once upon a time I’d discover a new blog and spend hours going backwards through time to try to reach the first post. It felt practically necessary – the only way context could be sufficiently established, that you could follow along with new developments. In the days before RSS – that is, only 5 years ago – you’d click through your list of links daily, just to discover if they’d posted something new.
It was all the better for the site to be one of the hand-crafted ones, where you knew that someone had to spend time creating the latest “entry” page by hand, updating the archives page. Those based on a dynamic updating platform had a curiously flat appearance to them, all “posts” the same in some respect or another… and yet there was an undeniable appeal, the simplicity of not having to upload, the ease of automatic archiving – and the brilliance of RSS, all for (practically) free.
All you had to do was learn the template.
And then people (ok, at least I) got lazy. There were better designers out there, and they were giving away templates as they played with new layouts – CSS had arrived, and there was experimentation to be had. And then it got accessible – anyone could do it, technical skills or no.
For a time, it was good. People were experimenting, the format was evolving, and there was a whole net out there to be explored.
After that time, it got staid. Everyone had a blog, a flickr account, a myspace page, and a facebook profile. And along came tumblr, tempting with its short-form updates. Youtube provided a diversion into video blogging, and the multifarious podcasting tools for those who preferred audio. And then came the prodigal son, twitter, life in bite-size chunks of 140 characters.
Now, they’re all hungry, as the newly social internet runs on the back of that ubiquitous term, user-generated content. They ask you to Add a New Post, or What Are You Doing? or the latest prompt, What is On Your Mind?, as though the answers were being sought for anything other than page-views and the corresponding ad dollars.
Whatever happened to us?
So it is thus that I’m prompted for a redesign, one I’m flagging ahead of time in order for it to sink in to myself. A re-organisation away from the blog format, one where we return to the idea of a “home page”.
I no longer blog in the longer form about day-to-day things – I never had much to say, not being a diarist, and with the advent of twitter it entirely does away with the reason to post here for shorter items. The main thing I post here are the longer opinion/rant pieces, selected links I deem more interesting and noteworthy than simply appearing on del.icio.us, and finally reviews of movies, music, books etc.
None of these really make sense in a blog form – there’s no narrative continuity, no requirement for a timeline. The default archiving method has in effect fallen to being last-come first-served – and there’s no reason for it.
My most popular posts are the one where I detail the rules of the card game Sweep, and where I share a basic Indian recipe – neither of which is immediately obvious from the page you’re greeted with when you land on this site. It’s not that I want to particularly drive visitors towards these posts, but these are the ones that have become most useful to people, and there’s no reason Google should be the only “portal” in to my site.
Thus it falls to a redesign – as I mentioned, a re-ordering of how things work. Rather than allowing time to dictate the ordering and visibility of items, I’m going for a home page that returns more to the original use of the term. I’ll still utilise the tools available to me in the background, so RSS feeds, comments and the like should remain, but at first glance, things should feel a little more… hand-crafted.