What makes a good website, especially one that lasts a long time? gwern has some ideas, namely his twin ideas of Long Site and Long Content. gwern quotes Julian Assange, but it is worth doing so here as well1:
The internet is self destructing paper. A place where anything written is soon destroyed by rapacious competition and the only preservation is to forever copy writing from sheet to sheet faster than they can burn.
If it’s worth writing, it’s worth keeping. If it can be kept, it might be worth writing. Would your store your brain in a startup company’s vat? If you store your writing on a 3rd party site like blogger, livejournal or even on your own site, but in the complex format used by blog/wiki software de jour you will lose it forever as soon as hypersonic wings of internet labor flows direct people’s energies elsewhere. For most information published on the internet, perhaps that is not a moment to soon, but how can the muse of originality soar when immolating transience brushes every feather?
Readers have asked what software is used to run IQ.ORG. A mere page of handwritten ruby constructs the site out the most robust future proof storage form imaginable. A flat directory of text or html files. The directory, like any directory can be backed up, edited, emailed, zipped, transported, printed, trapped in amber etc.
Regarding his publishing system, he writes, “it’s gold until civilization collapses, the neoluddites take control, or both, but then we will have other adventures to please us…”.
Here are some general principles to keep in mind (copied from gwern’s list under “Long Site”):
- Use plain text (what are some reasons? gwern links to “The Importance of Being Textual”)
- Use free software
- Avoid external dependencies
- So no URL shorteners, as quoted in the footnotes on gwern’s site
- What about the DuckDuckGo style links, like this?—hmm, this would be fairly simple to fix though, even if DDG went down.—plus, links themselves are an external dependency; trusting DDG is better than trusting any old website. In the end, what will lead to more durable links?
- using awesome-slugify?
- staticness (are there any good reasons for this? gwern doesn’t provide any)
- compatibility with git
- ability to use math (LaTeX, mathjax, images if desperate)
- some option for single-source publishing? (to PDF [to print] and HTML would be nice)
- not WYSIWYG (because let’s be honest, WYSIWYG isn’t very good in terms of producing precise content)
- but must have mostly readable syntax (LaTeX is fine, since I’m so used to it, but HTML is ugly); Markdown-type syntax is great
- content must stay on a local drive, and be “pushed” to a possibly off-site place for hosting (like Github)
- ability to merge different sources; e.g. one person writes an article, another works on it by adding a few things; but if the first person does not want the changes of the second person, yet the second person wants changes from the first person, then the second must be able to keep pulling changes from the first.
may be useful.
From “Self destructing paper”. 2006-12-05.↩