Sleeping Cyborg

Jonathan David Page talks about whatever he happens to be thinking about. Sometimes other people join in.

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This Space Reconsidered

by on 5 April 2014
in ,
with some comments, maybe.

I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with this site. I’ve done a few different things with it, but none of them have really felt right. Some of you may remember that, once upon a time, back in the days of yore, this blog lived at jd-page.com. That URL still works; it just redirects here.

Since then, I’ve changed domains twice, first to blog.jd-page.com and then to its current home at sleepingcyb.org. I’ve rebuilt the entire site three times, too: I originally based the site on Textpattern, moved to Jekyll for a while, migrated to Tumblr, before coming back to Textpattern again. I’ve redesigned the look of the site too many times to count, covering everything from the industrial-inspired dark gray, lime green, and fuchsia of the original, to a fairly staid black-on-white style, to the current red-accented narrow-column presentation. It’s gone through one name change, too: the original title of the blog was “Null-String”, which was eventually changed to “Sleepying Cyborg”, to match the domain. In short, this site has been my personal playground for the past four years, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it.

I pay for web space. Not only that, but I pay for rather nice web space that lets me SSH in and run weird homebrew CGI programs, written in odd languages like Haskell. I’ve been with NearlyFreeSpeech.net for the entire run of this site—even during the Tumblr phase, when the space became a place for hosting stuff like source code, which I couldn’t put on Tumblr. In 2009, when I started this blog, during my junior year of high school, I was among a limited number of peers my age who paid for web space. In 2014, during my junior year of undergrad, the same applies.

The amount of utility I get from having my own spot on the web far outweighs the money I put into it, though for those who aren’t inveterate web tinkerers, I realize that the same might not apply. However, for those of my friends who are occasional web tinkerers, there is a problem. Every programmer eventually needs web hosting for some reason or other. Today, with the rise of GitHub and Bitbucket, that’s become less of a problem, because both provide compelling free offerings.

To a lesser extent, the same applies to writers. Occasionally, everyone has something to say to the world. But there’s safety in numbers, and not everyone (arguably, me included) has the time to produce an entire site’s worth of material, and gather an audience. Since then, Medium and Feathers have tried to solve this problem. But back in 2010, none of these services really existed in the same way they do now. This prompted me to move the entire site over to the sleepingcyb.org domain in early 2011.

The idea was that, with the domain no longer including my name, I could use the site and the domain to provide a space for my friends and family to put stuff on the web without having to go into the trouble of building their own space. A couple of school projects have sojourned in the sleepingcyb.org namespace, and a few guest posts have floated around, too. The only one that ever actually got published was Zach Parker’s writeup of the Higgs Boson back in 2012. Kevin Keller’s name appeared in the header for a while, though he never posted anything, and I eventually removed it in favour of the “Sometimes other people join in” part of the tagline. The excellent Woodrow Barlow has a guest post about network security in the pipeline. The main thing holding that up is me, so that’ll appear… eventually, I hope. Sorry, Woody. I’ll get to it soon.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this site, and what I want to do with it. I like having a blog, I really do, and I would like to do more with it. The problem is that in its current state, it’s like a big tossed salad. There’s a little bit of everything here, and that’s okay. It reflects the variety of stuff that goes through my head. The problematic part is that it’s very ‘me’, which strikes me as inappropriate for a site purporting to be a kind of shared space.

For a while, I considered breaking the site up into technical and nontechnical categories. That’d provide me with a space to talk metaphysics, and keep it separate from the space full of linear algebra, particle physics, and type theory. However, that rubbed me the wrong way; I just don’t like the idea of chopping up my life of mind by topic. And it still wouldn’t solve the problem of sequestering my screwball ideas into a clearly-delineated space labelled “Jonathan’s Opinion, Nobody Else’s Fault”. I think I finally have a way of breaking things up that I like, though.

The vast majority of the current content of the site (i.e., most of this blog) will move into its own blog-formatted section of the site, something like sleepingcyb.org/jdpage. I might even go back to titling it ??Null-String??—who knows? The parts of this blog that aren’t my fault will move to another blog-formatted section of the site, dedicated to publishing one-off posts from a variety of sources.

There is also a certain amount of information that just isn’t suited to the blog format. Things like Woody’s forthcoming network security guide, or my forthcoming history of chronology, or some of the random explanatory posts that pop up occasionally, simply don’t make sense in a reverse-chronological format, because they’re neither time-related, nor particularly personal—they’re primarily consolidations of information into a more easy-to-digest format, rather than extended elucidations on an idea. So they’ll go into a separate part of the site, organized by topic instead of by time. I’m rather tempted to call it “the Dereference”. (It’s a programming joke, don’t worry if you don’t get it.)

The front page could either turn into a table of contents, with links to the various sections, or into a sort of unified activity stream for the entire site and environs, mixing together blog posts, Dereference updates, and maybe even Twitter feeds and links to other noteworthy posts on the internet, a la Tumblr’s ‘reblog’ feature or Twitter’s ‘retweet’ feature.

I’m posting this to get these ideas out of my head and into a more concrete format. I’m also looking to possibly get some feedback. I know that nobody cares about it except me—I wouldn’t describe my audience as ‘devoted’ by any stretch—but surely someone must have an opinion as to whether it’s a good idea or not. You can comment below, or on Facebook, or on Twitter, or to me in person, or however you like. I won’t be making any changes until summer, since I have school, so don’t expect any drastic changes before then. So: until next time, ladies and gentlemen.