Playfulness and New Functions

I finally managed to redesign this website.


The semester is almost over. I just got my first professional translation order approved yesterday, my BA thesis is as good as done (I just need to back check on some references), exams are waiting in line. And since my last post about developing this website quite some time has passed. I think it is time for a quick update, as extensive as time permits.

Playfulness and the Web

There are a lot of new functions to this website. When I first posted something here, I only had implemented bookmarking and posting (back then I had not even decided to call posts/articles/whatever-you-want-to-call-it blog posts). Since then a number of new forms of content have been added, most notably videos, even if I don't really use that function, notes - kind of like tweets -, and publications.

Before I did not use Twitter, but apparently I can see the awesomeness of it - or similar functions, that is - now. My publication section is at the point of writing ridiculously empty, since I have just not published any more. You could say I program functions without thinking about whether I have any use for them at the time of programming. That is true.

The website is heavily inspired by the Indieweb movement, as can be seen in my sudden use of microformats, syndication and even the use of the term "notes." In their principles, they note down one most important thing, which they call "selfdogfooding".

Eat your own dogfood. Whatever you build should be for yourself. If you aren't depending on it, why should anybody else? We call that selfdogfooding. More importantly, build the indieweb around your needs. If you design tools for some hypothetical user, they may not actually exist; if you build tools for yourself, you actually do exist. selfdogfooding is also a form of "proof of work" to help focus on productive interactions.

I actually agree to this almost completely, and yet I write all these functions I don't really need? Well, I think one important thing too often forgotten is playfulness. When I think of my earliest (even given my age) experiences on the web or of what we can still see with niche subcultures on the web, it was and is - and should not be anything but - a huge playground for people who try to build something.

Talking about young new employees and interns, I am told that many overestimate themselves. They have opened an HTML editor once and suddenly they say they knew all about it. On the one hand, having opened the HTML editor, say, having gained confidence (no matter if realistic or not) in your skills, already means having the perfect conditions to really gain them in no time. But that aside, it just shows that the playfulness of the web has already changed our culture.

I value this playfulness and try to follow it wherever I can, and that also means that I will do more than just creating for my own immediate needs. Maybe the need lies exactly in the creation of tools I have not yet had before. This means, selfdogfooding in the formulation quoted above is, I think, too restrictive a principle. I want to build things because I think that they would be cool to have, not because I need them. Making sense of what happened there can follow after.

Again, I agree 90% plus to the principle though, and apparently I believe our playfulness is not really to be restricted by it. Just that maybe it assumes things to be one way around where the process can work in both directions. Of course, a professional should know what they do before they do it - but a good autodidact is learning by doing, usually (at least in my case) doing more or less random stuff. And then, eventually, as I stated above, it will probably make sense somehow or be edited to do so. And then one can (and maybe, probably) will use what one built. Say, "use what you build" not "build what you need."

New functions

Anyway, let's get to the new functions. New functions are not only restricted to introducing new forms of content or the presentation thereof. But let's start with these.

New types of content are notes, videos, lists (so far conceptualized for books as I have been too lazy to edit it to be an all-encompassing feature for lists), events on a calendar and publications.

The motivation for most of these was seeing them on other sides and then, well, trying out if I was able to pull off the same. Take for example notes, which are automatically POSSE-d to Twitter, and semi-automatically to Facebook. POSSE-ing has also been more or less added for bookmarks and blog posts: new blog posts are automatically announced via Twitter and can also be announced via Facebook semi-automatically. This only shows a message stating that there is a new post though, not a true repost.

Notes and blog posts also show an icon next to the content now (which btw also adds author information to the post), which is also used in the front page and as the favicon. This icon can be freely changed in the backend. Similarly hopefully contributing to user experience is the calendar that can now be found in the events section.

Connections to External Programs

Finally, there are now export functions for most kinds of content. Bookmarks can - and could from the start - be automatically added to your browser or, first of all, mine, by using live bookmarks.

In the publication section, you can export bibliographic information in BibTeX, RIS and MODS format. I wrote a post on BibTeX and digital bibliographical databases using JabRef earlier, which can be found here "JabRef Tutorial, incl. information on BibTeX").

Finally, the calendar you can find on this website can also be accessed in .ics format (here), which means that it can be subscribed to using external programs.

To export my vcard (contact information for your address book, that is), there is a link in the footer. Thanks to the Microformats community for that, as their approach is indeed better than the one I took here in many cases (like the calendar).

I create machine-readable information from the actual data, just as I create the human-readable version from it here. Ideally, and that I also (but not exclusively) follow here, you could and can combine these two. For users to be able to use this though, the hurdles are still high. Arguably too high - and certainly so if you are also working with less techie people. Since of what use is machine-readable information if no one can use it but some 0.5% of the people (those who had the time and the means to learn to) can use it.

Other Additions I Have No Time to Discuss