About the site

Created: 2014-09-14; last major update: 2015-01-14


This page is about this site; for information about myself, see About me.


This site is my attempt to realize gwern’s idea of Long Content—i.e. the goal is to incrementally update the pages so as to produce useful, lasting content.1 It is also an open notebook of sorts. In particular, I strive to make all the source files used to produce this site human-readable (by writing pages in Pandoc markdown and storing them in plain text), version-controlled (with git), and freely-licensed (all pages are at least CC-BY, with some in the public domain2; the software used to make this site is all free software). I also like to release early, release often; I actually don’t deploy the site as often, but I try to commit to the git repository often—so my site is the result of many incremental updates3.

Inspired by Vipul Naik, I am also experimenting with the tree structure of this site. In particular, I think many of gwern’s pages are too long, so I like to siphon off content to new pages once a section on a page matures enough, etc.


Here are the tools used to build and run this site.

Most pages are written using Vim using the Pandoc markdown syntax. For each page that was manually written, the source markdown file can be accessed by clicking “page source” at the top of that page. The markdown files are then compiled to HTML using a static site generator I wrote, which is stored in generator.py in the repository4.

The style sheet for this site is written in SASS and compiled to CSS. There are actually multiple stylesheets available (specified using rel="alternate stylesheet" in the HTML):

Readers can select among the themes usually by going to “View” then “Page Style” in their browser (e.g. in Firefox). Chrome actually doesn’t offer this feature and requires a plugin.

All of the source files necessary to build this site are hosted on GitHub. You can visit the repository by clicking “website source” at the top of any page. I also have a mirror on BitBucket.

The actual site is served via Linode, using Nginx on a 64-bit Debian 8 (Jessie) machine. I currently use the Linode 1GB $10 per month plan.

I have registered the domains issarice.com and riceissa.com through Hover.

Getting updates

I have an RSS feed for this site. For more ways to get updates, see Feed.

Belief and status tags

I use status tags and belief tags on this site, both of which are ideas I got from gwern’s site. These are both meant to tell the reader how the author regards the content on a page. I find that it’s mostly useful in cases where I want to say “I’ve only briefly thought about this topic, and haven’t really spent much effort working on this page, so even though I think it’s worth making public, you shouldn’t take this page very seriously, nor should you think that I believe the things I’m writing”—but don’t want to keep repeating that all the time (so I just tag these pages with “Status: notes; belief: possible” or something).

  1. Of course, more cynically, one could quote Scott Alexander about the reason many people have personal websites:

    You know how if you’re under the age of thirty you have to have a personal webpage with your name, your photo, your resume, and then a link to your blog or something like that?

    Well, this is mine. Plus a little extra.

    In this case, this site would just be my attempt to “be cool”, instead of serving useful content.

  2. So content will be copied, making the data safe; “lots of copies keep stuff safe”, etc.

  3. I realize that Aaron Swartz likes to “Release Late, Release Rarely” to the public:

    When you look at something you’re working on, no matter what it is, you can’t help but see past the actual thing to the ideas that inspired it, your plans for extending it, the emotions you’ve tied to it. But when others look at it, all they see is a piece of junk.

    You only get one chance to make a first impression; why have it be “junk”? Once that’s associated with your name or project, it’s tough to scrape off. Even people who didn’t see it themselves may have heard about it second-hand. And once they hear about it, they’re not likely to see for themselves. Life’s too short to waste it on junk.

    While I think there’s merit in what Swartz says, here are a few things I’ll say to counter it:

    • I use belief and status tags to explicitly signal how “complete” or “ready” I think my pages are for the public.
    • I only deploy the site about once per month, so a lot of the most “rough” edits tend to be fixed during the time between deployments (so most of the public won’t see them anyway—and if they ever want to see those “rough” edits, they can always dig around in the Git repository).
  4. Although the static site generator I wrote is freely licensed, I don’t recommend that others use it (at least for now); it is somewhat of a hack that I put together to get some features I wanted working (but found lacking in other static site generators). Instead, one can find a list of many static site generators here.

Tags: general, site info.

The content on this page is in the public domain.