Some quick thoughts nowhere near complete.

It’s sort of a rule in room design, that it is hard to make a big, wide open room cozy and inviting.  You do this by adding odd, warm, interesting alcoves and inglenooks around the perimeter.

Likewise, modern open plan designed homes are practical in a sense, you can survey the home from front door, through the great room and kitchen to the dining area all at a glance.  But what gets lost is the delightful sense of exploration and being surprised when opening a door and seeing what is beyond.  Old homes had parlors, withdrawing rooms, nooks, turning hallways with many doors, sunny window benches for reading, surprise unexpected seating alcoves.

I kinda look at a WordPress blog the same way.  You have all these plugins and pages, so can you make areas, spaces if you will, that surprise, hopefully delight and entertain.  Odd bits of eccentric whimsy that capture interest.  These are not quite an easter egg but are not in your face either. You don’t want to take away from what you have written but you want to add value.  Navigation is there, easy to find if one does more than helicopter in on a search query and then helicopter out.  They are there if one explores.

These spaces can have utility too. An oaken paneled library, provides knowledge, entertainment, quiet refuge and a sign of what the owner finds interesting.  A bookshelf full of books in a guest room provides interest for insomniacs.

And it may be that these virtual spaces get little used, but if they bring pleasure to you knowing that they are there and to the odd visitor then all to the good.

Needless to say, I’m not a minimalist.

I fear that our technology, search engines delivering you to individual pages you are looking for, while efficient has robbed us of a sense of wonderment and adventure. Can a website or blog be both an effective conveyor of information with an optional dungeon crawl like D&D?

Feel free to comment.

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The finding of the Coroner’s Court is that 1990’s style webrings are officially dead.

Evidence of Demise

  • Two of the three remaining Ring Hosts are broken.  Both Webring.org and Ringsurf.com are broken in such a way that nobody can sign up as new members and it has been that way for a time.
  • The third remaining ring host, Webringo.com, is functioning.  It just appears that they have no traffic.  But points to them for keeping things in working order.
  • New 1990’s style rings created have had zero take up.  This is too small a sample to really tell but it is a small indicator.
  • A newer Indie-tech style webring has little useful traffic despite a user base.

What Killed the Webring?

  1. Generation shift.  Web 1.0 users “surfed the Web” so they liked the idea of a curated grouping of websites they could surf to.  Modern web users are used to helicoptering into a single web page via a search engine.  They only care about that page and it’s information, not websites or surfing.
  2. Rings are passive.  They sit there and wait to be discovered.  They are passive in recruiting members and they are passive in finding users.  Passive cannot break through the noise of the modern web.
  3. Search engines used to suck.  That was one reason for webrings you couldn’t find anything.
  4. Geocities, Tripod and Homestead.  Webmasters on these free hosts wanted to be found, joining a webring got you traffic.  Those free host webmasters were also familiar with HTML so they were not intimidated by having to put a ring code on their sites.  Modern webmasters use CMS’s and are more intimidated by messing with HTML code.
  5. Young webmasters may have heard of webrings in passing but have never seen one in the wild.  They don’t know what they are. Ditto the public visitor, they don’t know what they are.
  6. Commerce.  The web in the 1990’s was little used for commerce.  It was a place to explore, have fun, find neat things, exchange information and ideas.  Rings were good for explorers but not daily commuters.  Today commerce has taken over the web, efficiency rules so we can maximize sales, revenue and consumption. Webrings were never good for that.
  7. Lack of traffic.  Webring hosts had hubs.  These were a directory of webrings organized by subject. Example.  Many tens of thousands of visitors went to these ring hosts to find rings to surf, because search engines sucked.  So a webring gained traffic from both the ring host and the ring codes on individual sites.  The biggest reason you joined a ring or started your own ring, was to tap into the hundreds of thousands of eyeballs at those hubs, the code on other websites was icing on the cake.

The notable exception to this today might be the Bomis style ring.  It had enough differences that it might be a sleeper.  I’ve searched for any old perl or php scripts that would create a Bomis clone, there are hints that one may have existed at one time, but it is long gone.

There may still be some life in old style webrings: it seems to me neocities.org is a perfect match for webrings.  But it would take some promotion.  A ring host would need to get listed in Neocities webmaster resources pages and it might catch on. They would be a good match just as they were for Geocities et al.  But it would take effort.

The demise of the webring does not make me sad.  It’s time has passed and there are better ways to find websites.  It would have been nice to have it as a tool in the fight against the Google search monopoly silo but it’s a bit like fighting Delta Force with a sword.

This is part of a series: See Part II Here.

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  1. Cool!
  2. Neocities.org and webrings are made for each other.  Both Webring.com and Ringsurf.com appear to be malfunctioning when you try to join.  Webringo.com works. If I were the owner of Webringo I’d try to get exposure on Neocities somehow.
  3. Duckduckgo.com provides the site search to find Neocities hosted pages.  They have done a good job.
  4. There are some subjects that are better suited for a static site rather than a blog.  In fact the content will probably get buried on a blog. Neocities is perfect for such micro-sites.
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A weblog listing old websites, Bible verses, and, on occasion, other web-related resources. Updated almost every day.

Source: Web-Site-Ring: Web-Related Things

This is really neat: a neo-retro site about retro sites.  The webmaster finds old relic websites and links to them.  These sites were the way the web was when it was fun.  Back when experts built websites and shared their knowledge and experience.  Today we have Wikipedia.  This is a good rabbit hole to explore.

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It just occurred to me that there is a common thread in both New Urbanism and the Indieweb.  Both find that they dislike much of what their environments have become.  Both seek to bring back the things that worked in the past, but update them to present realities.

New Urbanism, is dislikes much of the automobile scale commercial, residential sprawl development done since the end of World War II.  Neighborhoods, commercial districts should be on a human, walkable, scale.  They seek to encourage community, face-to-face human interaction and neighborliness by adapting the best of pre-automobile city design while still accommodating cars.

The Indieweb, feels the old Web was fun, entertaining, informative and educational. They dislike the over-commercialization of the Web wherein everything is simply a platform to sell you something.  They also don’t like the social network silos, controlled by corporate masters, that corral most of the conversation.  Therefore, they seek to go back to a time in the Web’s past when, “the Web was the social network” not the silos of Facebook and Twitter.  Again, they don’t want to completely turn back the clock, but they do want to selectively bring back the good aspects of the Web’s past but brought up to date with modern scripts, coding and techniques that make it all possible now.

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Google’s latest European Union woes could mean opportunity knocks for app developers stymied by contracts that pre-install the U.S. giant’s own services on Android phones and tablets, according to analysts and companies.

Source: EU’s Attack on Android Boosts Rivals in the Battle of the Apps – Bloomberg

This could be huge not just for other search engines but also browser developers, email providers, maps, etc.  Google monopoly has in effect smothered all competition on these fronts. Nobody can gain any traction.  It’s time.

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Bookmarked: Foundations of a Tiny Directory

Two things hit me straight off: 1. I love the analogy of comparing a tiny directory to a Tiny Library.  It works.  2. tiny little curated directories on blogs are a way, if done right, of taking back the Web. Search engines are an essential tool, but we must keep in mind that when using a search engine we are helicoptering in to links on a topic.  A tiny directory is more personal, like Word of Mouth recommendation.

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