Site Changes Coming, How to Follow Sites, and Where I've Been
This site has been around for over 16 years now, and a lot has changed in the world during that time. I'm currently working on an overhaul and wanted to give everybody an idea of what I'm thinking about and why there has been little activity. In light of recent developments, here are also some good ways to follow good old-fashioned blogs and an alternative to Twitter.
When I first started writing this post to go out on the actual birthday of the site, October 1, I was planning on turning it into a static site with no comments, but better organization and still an RSS feed that would update when I added new things (see below).
I'm now rethinking this, but I am definitely going to reorganize the content, and change the layout and theme to make it easier to navigate. First, all current content will be moved into an archive (with redirects from the current URL of course). The idea is make clear what is old, and also turn off comments for those posts since all I get there is spam.
I will then turn a selection of useful content into little collections that will be easier to navigate and consume, and I will bring those up to date if necessary. I know people use my site for teaching, so I want to make sure it stays relevant and useful. The same thing is true for people finding it through search, etc.
The new structure will also have project pages of some sort that I'm still designing to have better landing pages for videos, papers, etc. This will also include moving the papers from my Kosara.net website over here (that site is purely a list of my papers these days).
As for the design, I have a few sketches and I've started building the new site using Svelte, but I'm now wondering if I should stick with WordPress after all. One of the motivations for this change had been to move the site to a serverless host and get rid of my virtual private server, but I guess that's not going to happen if I stick with WordPress.
So there are still decisions to be made, but I hope that by the end of the year, this site will look and feel quite a bit different, and next year I hope to have some more regular (though not very frequent) updates.
Following Blogs and People Without Social Media
It's kind of sad that social media ended up becoming the way to stay informed about things happening with people or any sort of "content." Before Twitter, there was RSS (and before RSS, there was email, I'll get to that). RSS feeds are great because they're extremely simple and you can follow as many as you want, and just the ones you want. All you need is a way to consume them, or a reader app. I like Reeder on macOS and iOS, but there are also free ones like Feedly.
And then there's good old-fashioned email. Email newsletters have become sort of thing over the last couple of years, though I'm a bit skeptical that they will be sustainable by themselves in the long run. You can subscribe to many websites and blogs, including this one, via email though (check the sidebar). I'm actually surprised that almost 3,000 people are doing this in my case, but it shows that this is something people want.
All of this is to say, we don't have to depend on centralized places like Twitter to share and stay up to date. Web 2.0 really wasn't so bad, and it's still around.
Twitter Alternative Mastodon
A good number of people I follow have recently set up accounts on a distributed social network called Mastodon. For better or worse, it's not a Twitter clone but rather a different approach to social networking (I've seen it described as the Linux of social networks, which strikes me as painfully accurate).
Since I follow mostly data vis and HCI folks, I see many of them on vis.social, and that's also where I am. There are many other Mastodon instances out there however, and you can follow people across them (this is called federation). It's all more tech-focused than it should be, but it's not very difficult to figure out.
There's also a great website called Debirdify that connects to your Twitter account and shows you Mastodon account names of people you follow on Twitter, and which instances they're on.
All that said, I'm not leaving Twitter just yet and I don't think it's necessarily doomed to fail (as many people seem to assume). The next months will be rough, but it might come back as a viable platform – we'll see.
Where I Am
I haven't been very active on Twitter for the better part of a year, and I'm probably not going to spend huge amounts of time on either Twitter or Mastodon going forward. Once I have worked my way through the site redesign, I do want to blog and keep things updated more often than I have, though. I also have bits and pieces for several videos that I need to finally put together and get out.
I've been spending a lot more time on Discord lately, specifically some servers dedicated to making music and synthesizer nerdery. I picked up music making as my pandemic hobby, and I've gotten more into it, which naturally eats into the time I have to spend on other things. I'm going to link to some of my efforts there from here and Twitter eventually, but this site will stay focused on data visualization.
It is nice to have this site to fall back on, even if it doesn't have the reach it once had. But it has been around for a while, and I hope to keep it around, and relevant, for a while longer.