This page is about this site; for information about myself, see About.
While the general feeling and content on this site has stayed the same since when I created it in September 2014, my overall thinking of it and goals for it have changed somewhat. Originally, this site was intended as a place where I could:
- place most of my writings regardless of content (biographical information, technical content, opinion pieces, etc.) and style (random notes, polished articles, etc.)
- ensure that the content’s existence would be for the long-term, so that I could add a little bit of information at a time, knowing that the site would exist whenever I next wanted to work on the same page
- canonically establish my personal identity online.
As of November 2016, now that the site has existed for over two years in its current form, here are my thoughts on the above points:
- With the site having been around for a while, I have a good idea of how many pageviews the site gets – it’s not very many. If I want my writings to be read, I need to either ramp up on promoting my content or publish in places that have more readership. I’ve mostly opted for the latter, and keep many writings now in an
externaldirectory in the site’s Git repository. As a result, this site has become a place for my biographical information as well as random notes that don’t belong anywhere else. This does make this site less useful on its own, but I’m fine with the trade-off.
- The site has survived so far, despite going through several changes in the static site generator that is used, the style of Markdown, and the organization of pages. I still have the full version-controlled history thanks to Git. Since I am religious about mirroring content I write on external sites to the
externaldirectory, even if a site for which I write goes down, I can ensure that at least my own contributions are here for the long-term.
- I’m mostly happy about having been able to canonically establish my personal identity. The domain name of this site did change from riceissa.com to the current issarice.com, and I’ve reorganized biographical pages a few times, but currently, I have an About page, a page for my online account names, and so forth.
December 2018 update:
- I mostly agree with my November 2016 self.
- One way I would phrase the feeling is by saying that a personal site shouldn’t become “too big”, and in slogan form, “if a personal site is too big, that means there aren’t enough Subwikis”.
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 (most pages are in the public domain according to CC02; the software used to make this site is all free software). I also like to release early, release often3; 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 updates4.
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.
old stuff I said: This site stores biographical information about me, but it is also a personal wiki or open notebook of sorts; anything that doesn’t belong elsewhere ends up on here, and as a result the content on here can be of admittedly low-quality: unfinished, written in multiple voices over the span of years, wrong, or otherwise unsuitable for public consumption. Embarrassing as it is, I like to “think and work in the open” so others can benefit from my thoughts and critique them.
July 2017 update: Over time I’ve come to think that almost all of my best work is done outside of this site, and that this site has essentially become a trash bin of half-baked ideas, embarrassing-to-read-a-year-from-now opinions, and very occasionally a decent page. It does probably show the progress I am (supposedly) making, but does it really make sense to so prominently display this incoherent collection of text under issarice.com, while my better work sits on other sites? There are now 230 or so pages; must I go through each one labeling them “obsolete”? How do I reconcile this sense of embarrassment at my past self with the value I see in Long Content?
June 2020 update: I’ve since further shifted away from using this website for anything real. I think it’s good for storing biographical info, and for things like my portfolio page, and for linking out to all my other online presence (so people don’t have to go around looking for everything on their own). But editing a static site is kind of annoying/has lots of friction/has slower feedback loop compared to editing a MediaWiki wiki. In particular, I’ve been having a lot more fun editing the Issawiki compared to editing this site. Going forward, I’d like to convert this site into a minimal biographical site, moving all other content to whichever other site/wiki is most relevant, and taking care to set up redirection so no links break (I’m not planning to delete any content). I don’t have the time to do that now though, so for the time being this site will be in a weird garbage state.
The direct ancestor of this website is riceissa.github.com (which now redirects to riceissa.github.io after GitHub reorganized their domains), which has the same “static site flavor” to it, and which I used until I bought my own VPS and domain names (see “Colophon” below for details).
There was also a riceissa-notes repository that I created that apparently never took off (writing in late 2016, I don’t even remember making it).
- 2012-02-20: riceissa.github.com, which redirects to riceissa.github.io-legacy
- 2012-11-22: The Git repository for riceissa.bitbucket.org begins
- 2014-03-14: Last commit to the Bitbucket site repository
- 2014-04-12: riceissa.github.io
- 2014-09-14: First commit to this site’s current Git repository. The site uses the static site generator Hakyll starting from this point.
- 2014-12-16: This site switches to using my own static site generator, written in Python.
- 2014-12-28: A commit from this day changes the domain information on this page from riceissa.com to issarice.com.
- 2016-03-25: The site begins using just a Makefile and Pandoc.
- 2017-06-11: Experimental IPFS support added, e.g. index page. (Update: at the moment this is broken.)
This site used to be canonically available at http://riceissa.com, but I think in late 2014 I made http://issarice.com the canonical domain.
I think in July 2015 I added the
_archive directory to the site, which allows access to some past compiled versions of the site (although the source files are accessible for every version thanks to Git). The idea is to allow people to see what the site looked like at certain points in time without having to compile the site from source.
In late October 2016, I added HTTPS support.
I use Pandoc and a Makefile to produce this site, which is then hosted via Linode. For details, see Colophon.
I plan to add an Atom feed for this site at some point. For now, see the list of pages on this site sorted by date of last substantive revision.
Belief and status tags
I use status and belief markers 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).
2020 update: I’ve mostly abandoned the idea of using these belief and status tags, because they are too annoying to use, and I think they are also annoying to consume (as a reader).
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.↩︎
So content will be copied, making the data safe; “lots of copies keep stuff safe”, etc.↩︎
See also Random Ideas and Suggestions | Essays on Reducing Suffering: Agile Projects.↩︎
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 once every several commits, 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).