On Hyperverses

I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons I never update this blog is because I don’t focus on any particular topic. Some people can dash off unfocused blog posts at the drop of a hat. I, for good or ill, am not a member of that set.

Back in, oh, April-ish, I found a topic that not only I could obsess over, but has proven to be an inspiration to write about online. I started looking into Hypertext with a capital aitch, the idea that writing with little interlinking bits would revolutionize literature in unfathomable ways. It was a thing in the 90’s, right? Whatever happened to that?

One thing led to another, and I started a steady diet of reading on hypermedia APIs, hypertext, and electronic literature. And unlike other such interests, I kept at it. This one hasn’t flagged beyond reading a book or two. I am up to my armpits in instapaper articles and PDFs (and I even purchased a couple trade paperbacks) that I not only plan on reading some day, but am actually working on a reading list to make sure I cover certain topics. Which sounds like a totally normal thing to do, but it is far afield from my usual spotty reading habits.

Given the nature of the topic, I wanted not just to learn the topic, but create within the constraints of the topic. And while octopress is a fine blogging platform, I did not want to dash off a blog. I wanted to craft a site. Which meant I’ve spent more time than I probably ought to have diving into free font sites and learning CSS and Sass and ultimately Middleman.

And then I managed to squeak out what you see at Hyperverses.

While eventually (one of these days!) my coding chops will be almost good enough to get across to the computer what my brain wants to do, right now I generate a static site using Middleman. Which is classic hypertext. It’s a step up from writing my own HTML, to be sure. But it’s not as easy as blogging. I have to rewrite the site config every time I build the site just to make sure the index page consists of the new piece I’ve written. The CSS is atrocious, I bet the HTML is nonstandard. There is a good deal wrong with this site. But.

Since my focus is on hypertext, I wanted text to play a prominent role in the design. I had designed a pretty decent typographic logo for a header. It didn’t sit well. Finally I just ended up putting the site name as a straight typed logo for the site. It still didn’t set well on top, so I moved it and a lot of the boring site navigation stuff down in the footer.

The drawback to the approach I’ve taken is that while I’m happy with how the design has turned out, the architecture behind the site is not as “hypermedia” as I had originally envisioned. But at least now I have a spot to write about it.

I created the site so I could spare the less than tens of numbers of readers of this blog endless diatribes on whatever literary or RESTful topic popped into my brain. Yet I did not write. Partly because my personal life has been busy, but mostly because I didn’t have a toolchain for the type of site I wanted to build until I discovered Middleman. And even then, I’m not sure how long middleman will be around. So it serves my purpose for now.

Normally in the past if I’d encountered the obstacle of not being able to write about the thing I really really wanted to write about right then, I’d have given up. But instead I got my feet wet by creating a twitter account, @hyperverses. And I got hooked with that, doing research and finding new things to read and occasionally making a point of my own.

The site only has one page. I will be adding more soon. The footer almost certainly will be expanding in scope. I’ve started tagging the pages within middleman but I have no idea if I’ll ever use the tags. But it’s a start, and I’m excited.

P.F. Hawkins


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