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Hunting the Nearly-Invisible Personal Website (cheapskatesguide.org)
244 points by sT370ma2 on Aug 27, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 78 comments

I run an email newsletter[1] that aims to highlight the interesting content found on personal blogs. It's a single link every other day to something interesting, the kind of blog posts that you come across every once in a while that really make you think. The overwhelming feedback is that being able to read the kind of non-viscerally-targeted news and analyses that aren't easily found online is incredibly valuable.

[1] https://www.thinking-about-things.com

This looks really interesting! Is it possible to see a sample of previous emails? Are they just links or is there a comment describing them as well?

Getting another email 3-4 times a week is a big commitment, and it would be nice to get a sampler of what we're signing up for

EDIT: The website also says that it's a link per day, but your comment says "every other day". A daily link would be an even larger commitment

Each email contains the article's title, the genre, and an extended excerpt.

I'm not sure how to link to previous emails, but here is a sample of previous links: https://mix.com/thinkingaboutthings.

It started out as an every day email, but readers told me that every other day would give them time to read the articles.

I enjoyed the first post I read from this list [1], so I've signed up for the newsletter. But I do take umbrage with some of what it says! When someone asks "Was Brontosaurus an herbivore?" the right answer would be Yes even if brontosaurus as a category of dinosaurs had been removed. (It's still a valid genus name, so the point is doubly wrong. [2]) It is clear that if someone asks about brontosaurus, they mean the animals whose bones were called brontosaurus bones, which were in fact herbivores. The only other possible thing they could mean is "the well-known (but non-factual) dinosaur called Brontosaurus" which is an herbivore in much the same way that a unicorn is an herbivore.

Similarly, the author seems to mistake the difficulty in the question of "What country was George Washington born?" which is primarily the question of what does that even mean? The country that the spot of his birth became or the country which ruled the spot of his birth at the time? In fact, I'm not even sure what answer the author thinks is correct. Washington was a British subject (citizen? not sure) at birth but the "clue" the author provides seems to try to hint that Washington was born "in the US" whatever that would mean prior to the US's existence.

Nonetheless, I stand by the author's overall sentiment that facts should be connected together and not simply memorized, and the other examples were good.

[1] https://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2009/07/was_brontosaurus_a_h... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brontosaurus

The only times I've ever seen the question "In what country was George Washington born?" it's always been a trick question with the answer "hah hah, it's Britain I bet you didn't think of that!" or some variation thereof.

But he wasn't born in Britain, any more than someone born today in Gibraltar or Montserrat would be. He was born in Virginia, a British colony.

He was an officer in the British colonial army before he became a traitor and a revolutionary, though. That's fairly well known so maybe the "trick question" is that he was actually born in the modern day US?

I'm not saying the people with the trick question are accurate, I'm just saying that's the way I've ever heard it.

Ah great! I like the mix of topics. It somehow reminds me of Arts & Letters Daily[1]. Definitely looks worth subscribing

[1] https://www.aldaily.com/

Interesting. Subscribed.

There is also this daily newsletter of hacker news blog posts https://hnblogs.substack.com

Can confirm that this newsletter is awesome. On a side note, the blogs that the newsletter links to often have no comments on Hacker News, meaning that I have often never seen them before.

And there's a reddit: https://old.reddit.com/r/hnblogs/

Sounds interesting! Do you have an RSS feed too?

Things like this are sorely needed in the age of "content marketing", fake reviews and other kinds of astroturfing. Thank you!

Your link is not working, had to put www. in front. Seem nice though, I subscribed

Thank you for letting me know. Fixed.

Just an fyi as well. Your site did not load any content for me with the Disconnect.me and uBlock Origin blockers. I had to disable these to get the signup form to appear, and have the loading icons disappear.

I've been subscribed for a few months now and just want to say thank you! The content is always refreshingly outside of the standard topics of news streams and discussions.

I really enjoy the articles put out on this website, as well as the points the author raises in each. I always enjoy seeing it appear on HN.

A query though - Is it possible to have some verification of the "top 100" personal sites claim? For example, years ago if you searched for "Sumerian gods" - you would get all manner of results, but nowadays you will always get Wikipedia as the top link, junk mixed in, and then other factual sources if you keep digging.

Wikipedia having top spot is not always necessarily a bad thing because ultimately most people searching likely want a factual source - or at least a source they trust. However, as a result of the two algorithms (and no doubt many more) we have a bunch of "junk" links in between the top link and the other interesting links. Even Britannica ranks lower than the junk links.

What I mean by "junk" links is the "Top 10 Best Sumerian Gods", etc. These frequently contain content lifted from other sources - including each other, spam-like advertising, and simply prey on the search engine's algorithms to get on to the front page beating the interesting content down into pages 3,4,5 and beyond. There's entire sites devoted to "how to" game the search engines, as is to be expected with any automated system.

Yes, the algorithms could be better - Britannica and other factual sources shouldn't be below "Top 10" lists, but so could the ethics of those who run sites purely for advertising revenue.

Conversely, better results are shown on page 1 for "Elizabeth I".

> What I mean by "junk" links is the "Top 10 Best Sumerian Gods", etc. These frequently contain content lifted from other sources - including each other, spam-like advertising, and simply prey on the search engine's algorithms to get on to the front page beating the interesting content down into pages 3,4,5 and beyond.

Better known as chum: https://www.theawl.com/2015/06/a-complete-taxonomy-of-intern...

Honestly, sometimes the "junk" lists are fairly useful. They contain absolutely minimal content (because that would require work), but hit all of the necessary keywords for the subject matter. This turns out to allow extremely efficient lookup of a word or name you may have forgotten, whereas trying to find the information you're looking for in Britannica could require reading several pages of dry information before you end up seeing "Ninhursag" and realising that's what you were looking for.

Just make sure your ad-blocker is working before clicking on them and it's all gravy.

Much of my personal blog is actually ranked on Google for terms. I tend to keep my notes in my blog, I share it on HN and Reddit.

It’s important to develop a personal brand, but also to share knowledge. My personal, unquantifiable goal, is saving a million man hours through my blog posts. So many things are implemented or explored, but never shared. Knowledge in a vacuum is useless to society.

I wish more people would do this (write and attempt to rank content), it’s what makes the internet revolutionary (not the memes or messages).

>It’s important to develop a personal brand, but also to share knowledge.

It's such a long-term reward that can be hard to quantify when talking to people who operate in a "long-tail passive income" mindset.

I've kept my website about an obscure drum machine (the Boss DR-110) operating since 1999, I still get occasional emails about it, and I absolutely can see how what I've shared has shaped the drum machine ecosystem in little ways in the intervening years, from modifications people came up with and shared back, to hardware implementations from hobbyists, to the addition of its circuitry to modern mass-manufactured clones of similar hardware. Literally every copy of the schematics on the internet came from the service manual that I bought on eBay, photographed, and scanned from the negatives at what I thought was an absurdly high resolution at the time.

When my wife's M-Audio AV40 speakers developed a buzz, she found and replaced bad capacitors, and over the last seven years, has seen a stream of comments from people expressing thanks for showing them how to give their own problematic speakers new life.

>I wish more people would do this (write and attempt to rank content), it’s what makes the internet revolutionary

At first glance, I thought, "No, that's what broke the internet." Because I was thinking of all the spammy articles I find at the top of the search results.

But I see what you mean. People with useful insight should try to rank their personal/niche content. First page of Google Search used to show me articles from personal websites 10+ years ago, not anymore.

Yes, I often like to say: imagine if the general public instead of wikipedia only had the papers used as references. It's not about all the knowledge we have, it's about how accessible it is. And for humans to make sense of knowledge, we usually need to be introduced to models or simpler abstractions first. If we didn't only had the knowledge but it was actually accessible in human-friendly ways, like 3blue1brown level and above (and tools and frameworks and playgrounds too, not only generic knowledge; models are vital for humans to make sense of things!), the potential wouldn't only be extraordinary, it would be fulfilled. Or that's what I live dreaming about.

I actually would write more, if people would read it.

Unfortunately, if I write a blog on my personal website, nobody is going to find it. And I don't like Medium for their policy of forcing people to paywall their content in return for visibility.

If I post a link to a blog post on my website to Facebook, Facebook downranks it and doesn't show it to most of my friends (seriously, WTF).

The only thing I can do is post the actual text on Facebook, if I want people to read it, but there's a limit on post length, and in-line media isn't supported.

I don't write much on my blogs nowadays, but that's mainly because I lack inspiration. For the past few years my 'blogging' has mostly been long rambling rant-thoughts about obscure stuff on Facebook: it gives my friends something to chuckle about.

When I do write proper blog posts, the lack of an audience doesn't bother me anymore. It is (as they say) what it is. It's also liberating: I can write what I like without fear of reprisal or the need to justify myself - an online occasional diary, if you like. Last year I built a new website to collect together all my writing work. I included some blog functionality in it and rescued a bunch of posts from old Blogger blogs. It was fun to read them all again[1].

I, too, loathe Medium's business model. If I see a potentially interesting post here on HN which links to that site, I've taught myself not to click the link.

[1] - https://rikverse2020.rikweb.org.uk/blog

I thought I read somewhere in the HN comments that Medium articles are automatically down voted by the algorithm. I rarely see them. But I might be mistaken.

my father (75yo) still obsessively updates his personal website (using FrontPage!) For years he was proud that his article on Hill's Criteria of Causation was the top hit on google for a search on "hills criteria" or similar. At the time Wikipedia had no article on it (he's now #4 since wikipedia has a article as well as a couple of medical sites.)

His site has the look of a personal webpage from 1997, but since retiring, he still works on articles and publishes them on his site. His site is a mix of scholarly articles (Anthropology), old syllabi, and personal stuff.

That's great!

Tools are just means to an end and overrated compared to the actual end.

Changing quarterly to the "most efficient" tool is a lot of work over time.

Sticking to one seems to get things done.

And static websites save you the headaches of security - I think your father can't imagine what it means having to patch a critical bug in node/php/mysql/whatever during your vacation when travelling.

And I guess, he may not think of this kind of publishing as being for the "technically minded" or "tech-savvy" ones only.

And the stuff can be read in ages to come.

I recently setup a personal website. My intent was to migrate a few old blog posts from WordPress and, more importantly, make my notes public. After trying a bunch of note-taking apps, I realized that most of my private notes didn't contain any private information, so I thought why not just make them public as-is.

My setup is (almost) free, mostly built on open components (so, no vendor lock in) and pretty low-latency. See if you'd like some inspiration on how to setup something similar for yourself: https://ketanvijayvargiya.com/posts/58-setup-blog-and-email-...

I also chose hugo a year ago with pretty much the same motivation, but meanwhile I may even go with plain html plus some scripts creating tag and overview list pages and no other tool at all.

I'm just sick of breaking updates.

Search and comments are radical: https://blog.mro.name/2019/05/wp-to-hugo-making-of/

Search, yes, and I need to spend an afternoon to get that working. (From what little I've investigated so far, it seems like it'll be some work to get that to work.)

Webrings are back :D Put your personal sites in a webring! :)

Funny timing, I just blogged about webrings on my personal website a few days ago: https://merlinscholz.name/post/bring-back-the-old-web/

I have seen few people with webrings on HN as of recent. Hard to tell if it's gaining momentum or I am just lucky?

Example: I was reading https://www.jefftk.com/index yesterday which also included webring.

I don't know if they are, I think, a bit, the "old web" is actually huge, but getting into it takes some effort.. Sometimes, you find these hub-like sites, for example when browsing a webring (shameless plug geekring.net ), that leads deeper into some neocities commune or similar, it's great fun :)

My site is also using Drev DeVault’s openring, which is a relatively new tool.

Opening really is a godsend for starting a webring, especially in combination with some static site generator like Hugo.

Random question, since your site came up: what do your kids use to make their personal pages? Thinking of doing something similar with my 7-year-old and 4-year-old this fall.

They dictate and I type plain html + css. Sometimes they ask for complicated things (like when Lily first wanted polka dots) and I look it up.

Lily's Inxed page and RSS feed are from a script I wrote that does it manually: https://github.com/jeffkaufman/webscripts/blob/master/lilyrs...

I wrote about this some here: https://www.jefftk.com/p/helping-the-kids-post

I loved pony podcast lol.

Haha ... Lily's blog is great. Good job, Dad.

That looks so cool. Thanks for the blogpost, I've been a bit burned out lately for personal projects, but once I get some recovery time and reboot I also wanted to extend my personal blog and I will definetly adopt the idea!

It's important to share knowledge to next generations. This technology was invented around the time I was born

1) It's Drew DeVault, not Drev Devault (as listed multiple times throughout your site)

2) Would love if you made a link out of "Homelab" in your About Me sidebar, which linked to a post explaining what it is. I just read about a "homelab" on HN yesterday, and would like to know more!

Thank you. The lack of the capital V also turned me off as a potential user of the site. Not only was it wrong once, but multiple times. I think it's mistakes like these that need to be really examined as a site owner.

Shoutout to the webring my personal site[0] is on, GeekRing[1]

[0]: https://aarontag.dev/ [1]: https://geekring.net/

This reminds me that I created a web ring for self-published comic books as a kid called ComicSect. Must have been around 1994.

The problem with webrings was if they got too big, IIRC? Well, and if the chain was broken.

It would be nice to have branching webrings, so that a site in one webring that also "bridged" to a different ring, or a more specific topic (or less) could also link there.

As always there is the problem of curation.

And don’t forget to sign the guestbook ;-)

There was a huge push for "new coders" to start their own blogs about problems they encounter and such, especially as part of the bootcamp that I was working for. I wonder if that is still a thing.

I wonder if that's for resume padding? People post their blog entries to LinkedIn as social proof of their skills pretty frequently.

Even though the technical skills I see explained are often quite basic, done well it's valid proof of whether they can explain something in writing, which comes up at my work a lot.

There's also value in having a beginner's perspective on stuff- What concepts weren't clear? Was there some documentation that was difficult for a beginner to grok? What helped the pieces fall into place?

There's a school of thought w.r.t. project documentation that encourages beginners to write beginner focused documentation since the people who are experts on the project don't always have the perspective to effectively communicate to beginners.

Partially but it could also serve as a "learn by teaching" theory concept, forcing them to clarify their understandings to pass it on.

Our bootcamp didn't mention anything about a blog, just having a personal website as a portfolio like usual.

After reading that post, with the pink color background, and then hitting the back button to come back here. Hacker News looked quite green for a few seconds. It was an interesting experience.

Holy crap! I thought my phone had messed up!

I love this.

I love finding out-of-the-way personal websites.

A while back I did my own implementation of "lets make hard-to-discover things slightly more discoverable"

Every time you visit the website, you get a different personal website, as submitted by hacker news users a while back:


I'm tangential to the indie comics scene and it's interesting seeing a personal (not portfolio) site revival in those circles in the last six months, particularly with NSFW artists getting booted from patreon/instagram/twitter. Being able to host your own works on a place that'll never be taken down according to whims of legislation is ... massively reassuring.

Set up a links page for a few of them, if anyone's curious in a personal site scene that's different from tech: http://www.kradeelav.com/link.html

There are a lot of good personal websites people are listing. A lot of them probably only update once or twice a month. That's why it's so important to use RSS!


Sure you can just go to HackerNews and see what people are submitting, but what if you want to be the person who submits that amazing post for those sweet sweet Internet points? Just use one RSS reader site and fill it with EVERYTHING. Load random person OPML from Github, blogs and whateve.. and every once in a while, scroll through the titles, see if anything is remotely interesting, and if it turns out to be gold, put it on HN or your Mastodon account or Lemmy or (barf) Reddit or whatever.

Not everyone is gonna have your mad RSS skills. Other people have real lives and can barely digest what Twitter and Facebook feed them.

And by scrolling through stuff, you're not getting doused by those bullshit algorithms. You're in control of how you view, sort and filter your feed (and maybe use another RSS reader or one that supports profiles for the important stuff).

Congratulations. The hunt is on!

And the game... is afoot.

Tally-ho! I actually get many personal sites with my web searches, but maybe that's because they are both narrowly targeted and expressed in keyword form?

Oh, the irony.

I found this huge list of personal blogs some time ago, it's a great source in case that's something you're looking for: https://blogs.sirodoht.com/

I don't know how sirodoht manages it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I remember the good old days when personal websites ruled the web. I even found mine listed in the Netscape daily "rants and raves" directory for jokingly professing my undying love for Lindsay Wagner.

That listing led to a local newspaper reporter contacting me for a story about people who had web pages. I had a nice big quote in the article about how this new medium broke down the barriers to publishing and allowed all us common people to have our own voice broadcast out without needing to play the big publishers games or having to worry about the finances involved in publishing content.

I suppose much of that is still alive today, though definitely yoked by the social media companies' stranglehold on content publication by the masses.

> I had a nice big quote in the article about how this new medium broke down the barriers to publishing and allowed all us common people to have our own voice broadcast out without needing to play the big publishers games or having to worry about the finances involved in publishing content.

Many of us forgot that technical knowledge was a barrier to online publishing. Even if you used a program that made website development as simple as using a word processor, you still had to figure out how to secure space to host the site and how to upload the site. Those applications simplified that as well, yet all of those simplified steps still led to many books to guide people through the process.

Yes, there were other factors at play. Social media and biased search engine results were certainly part of the reason.

Did anyone else read this in David Attenborough's voice?

The style of writing reminds me of the works of Fravia, who used similar imagery in his searching guides.[1]

1. http://biostatisticien.eu/www.searchlores.org/indexo.htm

wiby.me - a search engine for websites similar to what OP is looking for

wiby.me appears to be a search engine for web pages, not websites. On their submission form, if you are submitting a blog they ask that you submit link to a specific post, and not the index. That was enough to dissuade me from submitting my personal site. I guess I just don't get it.

Yes its not everyone's cup of tea

In Latin America we had geocities in the 90s which made it very easy for people to create their own website, then myspace arrived and as pointed out in article,the herd started moving out there.

I added a Tor hidden service version of my personal website after reading this article, with the Onion-Location header for the regular version.

Reminds me of an aggregator, https://diff.blog

Someone should make a search engine that only indexes personal websites, blogs, etc


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