P054: Remainder Me This

A week ago, Jason Kottke wrote a blog post outlining his intention to incorporate links from a Twitter account into the home page of his website. If that sentence confused or excited you, buckle up — it’s about to get nerdy in here.

For the uninitiated, Jason Kottke is an old school, A-List blogger. If it seems silly that there could be such a thing as a literal list of the most influential bloggers on the Internet, then take a trip in the Wayback Machine and read an article from The New Yorker that was literally titled You’ve Got Blog. In a continuous state of publication since 1998, Kottke.org has been a huge influence on me and a daily read since I discovered it back in ’99.

Take a moment to think about what the independent web looked like back then. Most people who were writing on the web were required to possess the technical skills to do so. Mix that hurdle with the primitive nature of search engines at the time and you get a recipe for a web that was starving for content. And boy did Kottke have content; when he started posting “remaindered links” in the sidebar in 2003, it felt like a revelation. When he folded those short, link-heavy posts into the regular stream in 2007 it felt like an inevitability.

These innovations seem obvious in retrospect but blogging is a form of expression that has been defined by the mental model of a relational database. When people like Kottke or Ev Williams (also featured in You’ve Got Blog) push those boundaries, it makes for confusing and exciting times. Hell, I’m halfway convinced that all of the hand-wringing around Ev’s Medium comes from writers who can’t fathom how they would go about architecting such a system.

But the idea of putting links from a Twitter account on your homepage? That’s confusing to me precisely because it’s not exciting! That’s a solved problem with few technical hurdles and no shortage of predecessors — why was it worth 530 words from one of our generation’s most prolific writers!? I don’t understand it, but that’s why I’m intrigued, and there’s a feeling I think we could all use a little bit more of in our lives.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron