Putting in the Work on Personal Sites

I recently read two different posts urging folks to invest more in their own digital presence.

First: Tobias van Schneider, in “A love letter to my website”:

Fast forward to now and a website almost feels old fashioned. Our social profiles are all-consuming. Curating our Instagram page is our second job. We almost feel an obligation to share our work there, in addition to our personal lives. Our little corner of the internet? It now collects cobwebs.

Second: Brent Simmons, in “You Choose”:

You choose the web you want. But you have to do the work.

A lot of people are doing the work. You could keep telling them, discouragingly, that what they’re doing is dead. Or you could join in the fun.

It feels appropriate to re-link an old favorite of mine1 by Frank Chimero: “Homesteading 2014”:

But the web right now is a house divided: a silo for each little thing that you make. As I look back at how I’ve used the internet this year, I’ve come to realize it’s not sustainable for me to continue this way. Hosting my things all over the place is fatiguing, never mind attempting to keep track of everyone in multiple places. I’m pretty good at juggling, but I feel split and overwhelmed, because these networks are sorted by what things are (a photo, video, snarky quip, etc.), rather than who made them. My brain works in the opposite way. It’s people first, so I don’t think “I would like to see photos,” I ask myself, “I wonder what Josh has been up to?” To find out, I have to visit each little silo and piece the story together. So, if you’re like me, you speed through and develop an uncourteous stance toward it all, because the stuff you really care about gets mixed in with a lot of accompanying bullshit.

It seems the best way for me to do this is to step out of the stream and “build my own house,” just like those architects. I don’t have to simplify or crop or be pulled out of context (unless I want that), which hopefully produces a fuller picture of who I am, what I like, and what I value. I’m returning to a personal site, which flips everything on its head. Rather than teasing things apart into silos, I can fuse together different kinds of content. Instead of having fewer sections to attend to distracted and busy individuals, I’ll add more (and hopefully introduce some friction, complexity, and depth) to reward those who want to invest their time. I won’t use analytics—actually, I won’t measure at all. What would I do with that data anyway? In this case, it’s just more noise. The singular thread that runs through everything is only “because I like it.”

I’ve been trying to write more in this space, even if it’s just links to posts I’ve read recently. It does take work, but it’s also rewarding to see a consistent body of writing emerging on my own outpost on the web.