2020/11/18-Water Under The Bridge [HHC: N of M]

Nah. Not that kind of water under the bridge. I’m not the forgiving type. Well…that’s not strictly true. I just don’t make the same fucking mistake of trusting the same person twice after I get fucked. But that’s still not what this is about.

Since the original days of my first blog: The Universal Church of Cosmic Uncertainty (Radio Userland blog 0108194) I’ve been endlessly frustrated by the blog format, the way posts are just chronological. That’s fine if you’re just journaling….no, even that’s not okay.

The problem is that it’s really tough to find things that you’ve posted after they’ve disappeared off the front page. I suppose if you had the right keywords it would be easy. But you’d still have to know to go look.

I like to go back and reread my writing. I don’t know if that’s weird or not. But it brings me back to familiar places in my head, visiting old rooms and thinking “oh shit! I forgot all this was back here!”

That’s why I’ve done things like create the index posts for ongoing multi-post topics.

But it’s not really enough.

The original WikiWikiWeb, by Ward Cunningham (not that piece of trash people think of when the word Wiki comes up) was a great little platform, truly elegant in its simplicity.

All you did was, when you were creating or editing an entry was create a WikiWord, which was 2 or more words jammed together like that. The engine would assume that was a link to a page with that title. If it existed, it would automatically turn that WikiWord into a link. If it didn’t, it would render it with a little hyperlink question mark next to it. If you clicked on that question mark it brought you to the “new page” form to create an entry with that title.

So what you ended up with was an authoring system that would let you link to pre-existing pages or new ones ad hoc. Then you or someone else (the original wiki was open to editing by all) could create that page and automatically, any reference to that page title would be subsequently rendered with a link to that page. It was fucking magical.

Imagine then, writing a long entry about a topic with a bunch of things that needed clarification or extended references. You could just pepper the document with WikiWords and hit save. Lo and behold, if you were generally on topic (the WikiWeb was centered around object oriented software development, complete with the predictable level of tangentry) then when you hit publish, those links would just light up.

More than once I’d put a bunch of WikiWords in a post, thinking I’d have to go back and create the pages only to find out that a lot of the topics I was referencing already had pages dedicated to them out there.

Then there was a “RecentChanges” page that was different in that it just showed a timeline of pages that had been created or edited recently. So you could use that as a FrontPage if you were just looking to see where currently active conversations were going.

Fascinating stuff. I’m not sure if it’s still up. It’s certainly not still editable.
But it made it easy to build a body of knowledge that would let you jump around in an extremely powerful and intuitive way, unlike the current mess we have, which represents a conceptual and semantic, if not technological, backslide.

There were two other very important and simple properties the wiki had, one by design, one as a side effect.

If you were on a page and you clicked on that page’s title, it would return a search of every page that had a link to it. So it was easy to see who was talking about a particular topic and scan back references and such.

As a result of that people would tag posts with category names. So this would, for instance, have “CategoryWiki CategoryBlog” at the bottom. Then, as long as people had added Category tags to pages, you could get a category index.

The CategoryWiki post would have a little blurb about what a wiki was, etc. At the bottom of THAT there was usually a “CategoryCategory” tag. Click on CategoryCategory and you’d get a top-level list of all categories/topics where people had obeyed the convention. Great stuff.

But that’s all gone in the dated blog format, which has more the “river of news” format that current social media sites have, where things just disappear into the past as soon as enough new content was posted to push it off the chronological front page.

Sure it’s still there. But how the hell to get to it?

So one of my software projects that keeps getting pushed to the back burner (in a self-referential bit of irony) has been to take the blog format and build a hybrid, either through a wordpress plug-in or by building something new from scratch that would mix the approaches.

That way I’d be able to navigate the map of things I’ve already written about easily.

I do most of my writing on a desktop wiki system that I’ve wrtten that’s…kinda there. I’ve got to make some changes and add some more interesting handling of titles (more on that later.)

But now that I’m doing an awful lot more writing (lately about 30x what I had been at the beginning of the spring) it’s becoming more and more important to me that I’m able to skip along the wavecaps of these topics. It’ll help me go back and develop “older” content, bringing it up to date and stop me from writing posts that, most of the way through them, seem….hauntingly familiar.

I can’t imagine it would do anything less than sharpen my thinking.

Because right now I’m finding myself going over old topics and rehashing them from scratch, knowing that somewhere out there I’ve already hit these points.
Hell, I can do THAT just by talking to myself. The trick is to reaccess the old rooms in my head where projects are half built and continue them, after some familiarizing, from where they were, rather than form the first half of the thought every eighteen months.

Once I get that nailed down the format of this site will be changing quite a lot. I may end up just generating a static site offline and re-uploading a re-render of changed entries

Like this. I’m absolutely positive that something close to EXACTLY this post exists both on this blog in at least two places and in prior incarnations and other platforms.


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