Posts tagged meta

A new design

Update, Dec. 6: So I kinda consider the redesign process closed, as much as these things are ever finished. There are too many updates to mention, so if you're interested my best advice is to just start exploring what's on the menu (chuckles). Happy browsing!

It seems incredible it had been more than five years since I last deeply redesigned this website. I remember that back when I first designed its percursor, the blog If Then Else, the web was young, I was eager, and the iterations were monthly. That was April 2001. Now social networks take so much away (and this website, for all its independence, does aggregate posts off Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr) that this notion of having a personal website, having YourName-dot-com, seems as oddball as it was in the 1990s: the eccentric hobby of a technophiles, like ham radio or DIY electronics. I can say I do own my online persona and that's the entire point. Or I may rephrase that as something cool and say I'm contributing to the Indie Web.

So welcome to the new 2016 iteration of my website, now featuring some the typical expectations of a 2016 website — responsive design (as if people would surf the Indie Web on their cellphones! Ha!), higher resolution images, bigger font sizes. And finally, the homepage design recognizes how far less blogging I do nowadays, but won't ever bury the more exquisitely crafted posts (ahem!) under a bunch of forgettable tweets and Instagram pictures.

The site was you are looking at is yet very incomplete — many of the projects & portfolio pages are still missing and some of the previously existing links will still throw 404s for a while. I'll update this post as I go along. 😊


The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens

Even though I’m a long-standing Tumblr user, starting in the paleolithic age of early 2007, back when Tumblr was a small beta website in the age of Friendster and Hi5, I have to admit I’ve always had minimal interaction with Tumblr as a community, and such interactions have over the years mostly consisted of sparse likes and discarding private messages asking me to give up my beloved found username in exchange for a number of followers (how does such an exchange even work?) or more faves or whatever I can well do without.

Therefore it was fascinating to read this long article on Tumblr teens, which are mostly of the alienated variety that thrives under perceived anonymity, therefore the kind of kids that would have been building Geocities websites were they born 15 years earlier; but also, in a turbocapitalist twist, the kind of kids that fall for the Get Rich Quick schemes standing for contemporary Web Marketing (eg. affiliated links, clickbaiting, clickfraud, & etc.) and thus find themselves locked out of their own websites for infringing Tumblr or Google Advertising’s less-than-transparent ‘rules’ (or perhaps arbitrary and somewhat fraudulent on their own, even). It must be noted I find such measures equally deserved and nauseating: on one hand some kind of retribution from On High being served upon the brats that tricked other kids into buying sketchy diet pills in exchange of too much money and a temporary taste of Los Angeles’ glamour; on the other hand the crime of deleting a kid’s website, perhaps the very activity that brings meaning to the kid’s life, perhaps a meaning most of us won’t ever find in an activity, therefore a small (in the unfortunate context of world affairs) but certain violation of human rights.

All over these nine years Tumblr has mostly been for me a very convenient way to blog on my own website, as I’ve been using its API in order to sync posts to my own web host almost from day one. It’d be sad if found were to be deleted someday (or Tumblr ended API support), but my stuff would always still exist somewhere, both online and in regular offline backups. And herein lies the lesson: online, Big is Bad. Big users with big followers will suddently cash in and serve diet pill advertisements (or maybe ads loaded will malware). Big services with big users will suddently pull the plug, either because they don’t feel like sending that paycheck, or because a picture post once contained a nipple, or because that big service turns out to be insolvent and abruptly disappears one day. Big goes against the grain of what makes the web great.

Stay small.

A small important tweak

I've been rather neglectful of my website lately, to the point where its homepage consisted only of automated backups of my Twitter and Instagram accounts. Which would be okay if all I cared about was that the site somehow got updated, but instead I actually started to find it grating, as if I just came home and found the living room machine-efficiently reorganized by a swarm of those vaccuum cleaner robots: sofa propped up tall in order to minimize its footprint, my record collection used as floor tiling, books as a huge Christmas tree-like pile for easier retrieval or burning. 

The thing is, when you aggregate (or, euphemistically, 'machine curate') too much, your voice is lost. I came to check on my site and realized how 'spammy' it looked. Ugh. So I made one important tweak: this site now defaults to a Weblog (remember those?) page stripped of all automation, so I actually had something of a more active role in getting it there ('active' meaning that I run a script that syncs my latest Tumblr post, but still). The ugly automated but useful (at least for me) Aggregator of Nearly Everything Worth Saving to My Own Server still lives at the Stream, where the Weblog may drown under a — well, a stream of stuff I write, share or photograph on my phone while unaware of the aesthetic consequences for my own website.

Setting a cutoff point

Not having much to do in the past couple of weeks, I started to read my old entries to this weblog — stuff I wrote ten to twelve years ago. My original purpose had been to see if there were any old links still working and to hide the posts with broken links, but I ended up paying a lot more attention to my old prose. And that was somewhat... embarrassing. I've noticed that sarcasm doesn't age well and things that were obviously written as jest don't seem so funny in retrospect. They only seem sad.

So I better just come out and admit that my younger self was kind of a douche.

I've noticed that, with a few notable exceptions (mostly A-listers who were mature enough from the start) most people who still blog nowadays did start over multiple times. Unlike them, I took the atypical path of always posting to the same place, always merging the changes in technical backend, writing style, media & etc. to the same main trunk, doing so through URL changes, name changes (from the blog called If Then Else through Found Objects to the website simply called [My Name]'s you are now reading). Reasoning that if I have a single life, I might as well have a single journal collecting all the stuff I spread over the Internet.

I don't think that approach is wrong, mind you. I really, really like to have my own domain and website in this day of mass standardization. However, a look back in the archives is jarring. It presents a clear picture of how someone changes over time: how opinions change, how sensibilities change. I read stuff in there that made me want to hit my 2001 self in the face with the back of my 2013 hand for being such a troll. With time, one becomes an entirely different person.

So I decided I should start over, retroactively. Being such a backup freak (that hasn't changed a bit), I naturally saved all old posts to a safe place where I can still read them, but I set a cutoff date from which old posts are no longer available at this website. Somewhat arbitrarily, I went for January 1st 2007** as the new starting date for this weblog.

I'm thinking that in the future I might roll that cutoff date even upward. It's perhaps more interesting if a blog is a window into a certain timeframe of a person's interests and content becomes private after a certain time. Of couse, I might find really interesting stuff worth sharing outside that timeframe, and in such cases I might make those posts available.

In the meantime, I'd like to leave a note to my younger self:

Internet anger won't be worth it.

** Update: As there were actually a few interesting posts from earlier than 2007, I actually went to the trouble of leaving some available to a wider audience.

It seems Twitter is seven today, to which my first reaction was “Wow, already?!” Lately I’ve been disappointed at Twitter’s handling of its API, so I’ve been hedging my microblogging through, but it is still worth remembering my first tweet:

Some things never change.

Twenty twelve, thirteen

I’m late to write about my impressions of the year 2012, not because I’ve been busy but because I should be busy and somehow a sense of guilt about it prevents me from doing something as egotistical and pedestrian as writing my personal thoughts about those 366 days filed under 2012. Or perhaps I just feel that writing on my blog is just low-priority work disguised as leisure. Or perhaps I feel only twelve people will actually read this, and none of them will be any of the persons I enjoy imagining doing so.

And I’m annoyed I’m writing on my old netbook because my home computer died last weekend. Not a good moment because my PhD requires stuff done. The fucker.

But I digress. Even though it had its moments, 2012 was a shitty year. Even though I try not to mention it to my international readers, lest I be interpreted as belligerant and/or depressing, know this: the Long Depression — that is, structural socio-economical Crisis — got real here in Portugal. I’m actually lucky to have a part-time teaching job which requires me to take a PhD I’ll have to pay for. I’m lucky to be able to pay for a small studio where I can work and study, and that my parents can help with the other things I can’t afford. I’m 33, and like most of my friends my age I’m stuck with little perspectives. And the fear of unemployment and the little money due to frozen wages and rising taxation and the feeling one’s work became an auction won by the lowest bidder while empathy is rarer as selfishness, not selflessness, is generated by and feeds The Crisis, all that is on my mind as I wake up every morning. Lonely mornings. 366 of those don’t make a good year.

And why? Because of turbo-capitalism, because of Euro-banksters, and because of what can only be Northern/Central European governments’ climate envy and racism (an ugly word, I know, but how else to explain the beautifully orchestrated media campaign to convince Southern Europeans they brought this on themselves because they are lazy, when they actually work more hours for less pay, less perks and more taxes?). And obviously, because of those among ourselves (starting with our turbo-liberal — that is, Social Darwinist — government) who honestly or cynically believe such bullshit, that we must suffer for our sins, however factually unspecified those sins are. And there are lots of shit-believers, because The Crisis is actually a Cold Civil War, with external interferences and profiteering like all civil wars, therefore a Civil War indeed. Ongoing in 2013.

Fuck it.

In 2012 I fell in love; things didn’t work out but I loved!

I feel I’m a wiser person. Not always a good thing, but its own reward neverthless.

I made cool stuff: directed a film, released two shorts to the Public Domain. And I learned enough technical stuff to make my geeky self happy.

My friends were my friends and were my friends. That is incredibly important. And even though at my age it is getting difficult, I think I made new friends — and I’m not talking about Facebook.

In 2012 I watched some great, great films: Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, Miguel Gomes’ Tabu, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist and what must have been my favourite Bond movie, Sam Mendes’ Skyfall. But my two favourite movies of the year came right at the end of the year: the powerful Detachment by Tony Kaye and Leos Carax’s fantastically charming weirdfest Holy Motors. Holy Something, indeed!

2012 was also the year I rediscovered music thanks to (advertising alert), a radio station I got in the habit of listening to while driving and manages to have a playlist that doesn’t prompt me to switch channels every other song (something we in Porto had lost in the late 1990s and I thought would never come back). Here’s a beautiful automated medley of my favourite songs of the year, courtesy of This is My Jam.

And in 2012 I read David Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. That book is a keeper.

A few hours ago I went to the movies for the first time in 2013. I watched Michael Haneke’s Amour, the 2012 Palme d’Or at Cannes and a wonderful film — one of the saddest I have ever seen. And yet another item that underscores my growing realization that being a busy person is worthless, working a lot on stuff is worthless, if you prioritize that over the people in your life, if you value the bustle above the building of relationships and friendship and love (and if you don’t want to just take it from me, go read Tim Kreidler’s The Busy Trap, who puts it a lot better than I do). I do want my PhD and I am driven to do stuff. But if I’m going to choose a future regret, between failing a deadline for a paper and failing to accept a coffee date, I know which regret I’ll choose. If this makes me a lazy Southern European, so be it: I choose love.

I’m pretty late to the Instagram bandwagon, but after seeing a friend using it I was convinced that anything that makes me want to take pictures can’t be all that bad.

So. I’m @eduardojmorais there. I also set up a Tumblr automatically synchronized to Instagram, as an improvised web interface: Caixote de Fotografias.


This is my thousandth post on Tumblr, entry number 1945 on my stream. If I printed all these posts and entries, averaging one post per page, I’d have a pretty thick book by now — almost two thousand pages of randomness. However, considering I’ve been adding stuff to my blog since April 2001 that doesn’t seem all that impressive. In fact, considering that I have had my Tumblr since March 2007 the fact it took me five years to reach post one thousand actually characterizes me as a Tumblr dilettante: perhaps I should really give away my nice Tumblr username to one of those teens who routinely ask me for it (not that I would — if I bother replying my first answer is still ‘no’ and my second is still ‘fuck off’).

The fact that I’ve been a weblogger / tumblrer / twitterer / data entry hobbyist in modest quantities for such long periods of time without ever closing or restarting my web records from scratch allows me to appreciate change. Not surprisingly, my posting style changed dramatically through the influence of the tools I used to write and post. Whereas before I had a HTML text box as my interface, using Tumblr (with its predefined types of content) and its API as a content management system for my own weblog brought a profound shift (compare January 2007 to March 2007). A new style took years to crystalize, and is still ever crystalizing. The tools’ influence lies in the surface however — the kind of posts I make —, but obviously time is the factor in the greatest shifts in what goes in each post. A graph for my changing attitude could be traced, from naïve idiot to whatever I am now, which I hope is better.

A Web.

Back in 1999 you could learn almost everything you, the young web developer, needed from a book such as Webmaster in a Nutshell. Those simple times (the 1990s — simple!) are now long over. Much as days’ worth of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, now it seems as if college degrees’ worth of web technologies are invented every week. I feel as if the Technological Singularity arrived, and I (we?) lost the grip on History. However, instead of a single machine intelligence, some Cray-like box, simulating and running away with the Future, I feel there’s this distributed Singularity, part made of machine and part made of highly-focused individuals who are able to surf the technological zeitgeist for a brief amount of time until they wipeout — highly-skilled, motivated, caffeinated workers who are like the human cogs in Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: people programming machines that program people that program machines, the Singularity created of this runaway ressonance that also concentrates wealth and employement.

Perhaps the Web needs less builders, just enough architects and more planners.

The above illustration was made with this small Processing sketch.

Lifestreaming, endless tweaking

If you are a frequent visitor to my website or subscribe to its RSS feeds you'll notice that my weblog / lifestream / whatever you call these things these days is now, ahem, polluted with my tweets. Consider this a feeble attempt at making my website seem fresh with updated... stuff, rather than an alternate style for my Tumblr with the limited-edition extra pictures thrown in.

Anyway, this is a positive change. I'll be extra motivated to post proper blog stuff in order to prevent tweets from overrunning the place and making my website's homepage look like a rather ugly list of short and poorly formatted text entries that will make it even harder to convince anyone there is really interesting stuff lying underneath, accessible through the menu (really, there is! you should try it someday). And also, the list-of-tweets' essential ugliness presents a really interesting design problem, many horrible solutions to be considered and discarded: should I replace those Twitter logo bullet points with tiny thumbnails of my Twitter profile picture? Should I make tweet lists collapsible? Should I present users unrelated random images of kitty cats in order to make the homepage look, if not better, at least cuter?

Expect some bad design ideas to be tried out. Meanwhile, enjoy — there's interesting stuff here, I promise.