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Resisting Complexity on My Site

Published by on under the IndieWeb category.

I am tempted by all of the IndieWeb websites to add more features to this site. Yesterday evening, I had somewhat of a realization: the parts of my website that stand the test of time are those that are simple and do not require any overhead.

I define overhead as being a feature that takes extra time to maintain, or a feature that occupies my mental headspace more than it should. The second definition is particularly important for me. As I learn more about the web, adding new features becomes easier. It becomes more difficult to know when a feature is worth it and when a feature is just me playing around.

Dark Mode

Yesterday, I wrote a to-do list of ways that I could improve my website. I was busy and so I did not get around to implementing any of the features. I’m happy beacuse after waking up and seeing my to-do list of feature changes, I feel like a lot of them are unnecessary. Dark mode was high on the list.

I know the technical details on how I would implement dark mode. I would create a cookie in JavaScript that stores whether you have toggled dark mode on this website. That cookie would be read on every page load by a simple JavaScript script. If you had toggled dark mode, a few changes would be made to the stylesheet. I would probably make the background close to black and choose a contrasting text color.

The idea behind dark mode is that it would make my site easier to read for some people. While I do write in a light editor, I do most of my tasks in an editor with dark mode. From the day I set up Sublime Text, I have used dark mode. I know how much people love dark mode. When I think about it, this feature is not so much about technical aptitude. It is a case of trying to build for everyone.

Webmentions

I thought about how I could add webmentions onto this website. I got excited about webmentions after someone in the IndieWeb community told me about a way to notify people when I mention them in my blog posts. After evaluating the existing options, I was unimpressed. This is something that I have experienced a lot on the IndieWeb. There are so many great tools out there but most of them do not fit into my workflow. I like to build for myself.

To implement webmentions, I thought about writing a plugin that retrieves all of the webmentions that have been sent to my site. There is an API endpoint at webmention.io, the webmention provider I use, that would let me retrieve these webmentions. I would write a custom front matter tag that would add these webmentions into my site. I know that Aaron Gustafson has built a Jekyll webmentions plugin. I did not want to use it because I have very limited needs and I like to keep the overhead low on this website.

I am not adding webmentions for the moment. I keep coming back to this idea. My old excuse for not adding webmentions was that, at scale, they would not perform well. That’s another instance of the “at some point” antipattern that is so common in tech. My new reason for not adding webmentions is that they would make my site just a little bit more complicated. I’d rather keep this site simple.

The Weather Station

My weather station shut down after a week in operation. To all those who saw the “New! Weather Station” banner on the site and who were unable to see it, I apologize. My weather station is out of commission. One reason is because I bought a heat sink for my Pi and it turns out that heat sink imposes on the GPIO pins. I now have a heat sink stuck to my Pi that I cannot remove and that obstructs the GPIO pins. It’s not an ideal situation.

I shut down the weather station because it was too much to maintain. I didn’t want to keep my weather station on at night beacuse I like to have all of the technology that I use turned off before I sleep. Although the chances of my Pi causing a fire are minimal, they are higher if the Pi is on and I am not able to respond if I notice anything going on.

The Philosophy of Simple Sites

People who have been visiting this site for a while will know that I have gone through a lot of ideas. I built a micropub client. I displayed quantified self data. I created a directory of all the coffees I have consumed. It became too much for me to manage. This website is only part of my day. I don’t have time to check that all of coffees are in the directory and that every detail is up to date. This is the same reason why I do not have an About page. I change so much that my about page would become yet another thing for me to change whenever I do.

I am actively changing this site to meet my needs. Yesterday, I added in a new feature. I changed the weather station banner and replaced it with a banner that changes every time I build this site. I may talk about the technical details in another post. I have just decided that I am going to make the banner change on build time. That’s easier than making it change every day. I built this banner because I wanted to show interesting messages to my visitors when I do not have an announcement to make.

This post is somewhat of a continuation on my last post. When my personal website is such an important project to me, it is easy to add new features. I’m not sure I will ever be able to resist tinkering around. I don’t want to completely opt out of changing this site. It’s a bit of a pain for visitors but this is a site for me. If you come here, you may get a pleasant surprise if there is a new feature available.

I like to build for this site because I can learn a lot by coding projects that are for me. There is a fine line between a feature being cool and becoming a burden. I don’t want this site to be a burden. It should be a playground for my ideas.

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