Your Blog Can Be Your Indie Band

Just in case anyone was wondering, there is in fact an Arnold Schwarzenegger themed metal band called Austrian Death Machine. That kind of shit gives me hope for the future.

Here you have a group of people who decided that not only where they going to go through all the shit it takes just to be in a band, but that they were going to do it to speak to that 80’s action movie/heavy metal cross over set that you just know is out there and untapped. And these people have three albums.

After the 70’s, the DYI movement had clearly made it’s home in the music scene and you had people not just forming their own bands, but their own labels, clubs, and distribution networks. The effect this had was groups of music fans were giving the green light to themselves. That’s why you had Punk, which gave way to Goth, then Metal.

There are hundreds of sub-genres of just Metal (Speed Metal, Doom Metal, Math Metal, Grindcore…) This is because, while Metal does have some rules that make it a genre, it creates a framework for creative decision making that pairs well with a “why not” attitude.

This is why I find the current state of the web so frustrating. I’ve talked about that recently, so I’m not going to labor the point, but I haven’t been seeing a lot of the rapid fire experimentation that makes the underground music scenes so interesting and worth a damn. There’s been some on WordPress and Tumblr, but these kind of feel like the exceptions and not the rules.

I’m probably just taking a short sighted view of the web. The creation of the internet has changed the world fundamentally like the invention of writing and printing press did before. In fact, most people don’t consider human history to have officially “started” until after the invention of the written word. If you take that kind of perspective on it, then the 40+ years we’ve had the internet isn’t that long at all. In fact, we probably aren’t finished inventing the Internet and Web. Everything is still in flux.

For the last few years, it feels like there are a lot of gatekeepers out there and it feels like there a lot of people watching every move you make online. It feels like there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to express yourself on the web. This is a crock because that’s a social contract. Which is to say, something we are telling ourselves. The cost of doing things online is almost free, so the only gatekeepers are us.

It’s only a matter of time before everyone realizes that again. Then things are going to get really interesting. Your blog can be your indie band, so who gives a damn if you get on stage and post 500 pictures of cats or 500 unrelated posts. Who knows, you might find the next new thing for the Heavy Metal Arnold Schwarzenegger enthusiasts.

The IndieWeb, Revolution, and Other Reasons You Should Learn to Code

The above is a video of Amber Case’s brilliant talk about the Rise of the IndieWeb, which is a loose confederation of web developers that are trying bring their data out of “silos” like Facebook and Twitter and back onto their own servers where they have control. Now being a man of very Punk Rock leanings, this is of interest to me for a variety of reasons.

The main crux of the IndieWeb argument is that you should have a central repository of your data because any third party service could shutdown or delete your access at any time. Like Geocities did in 2009, wiping out everyone’s Johnny the Homicidal Maniac fan page.

They aren’t suggesting that you stop using these services, but that your site talks to and aggregates your data from all the big services from the web. Therefore, I should be able to write a post on my blog and have it cross post on Facebook and Twitter and likes from both services should show up on my blog. That way I have my original data – the post – and additional information – the likes – in one place that I control.

However, the real strength of this to me is not in preventing companies from cutting your access to your data but governments. Just last week, Turkish protesters lost their ability to connect to Twitter because the government blocked the service at the IP level. Before they were just blocking DNS, which caused people to spray paint Twitter’s DNS on walls (, if you need to know.)

While this may be the most cyberpunk thing ever, I can’t help but feel that the IndieWeb could have helped these people by decentralizing the tweets to multiple web servers, thus making it impossible for anyone to cut access because there isn’t one single point of failure. Negating the need for crazy, tech graffiti.

If that’s not the best argument for the IndieWeb, I don’t know what is.

But that’s not what I found inspiring about this talk. Amber talks about the web pre 2003 when everyone and their mother had their own websites on some kind of web server. This was how the current generation of web developers learned how to code for the web. They would cut their teeth making things for themselves and sharing code with each other.

Their websites were their labs. Hell, PHP used to stand for Personal Home Page. It was a programing language that some guy cooked up because he wanted something better to code his own site with and now it’s one of the most popular web languages out there. It’s what WordPress is written in, which powers about 15% of the web. (By the way, WordPress was also developed the same way: a guy just wanted a better way to run his personal website.)

Amber laments that we’ve kind of lost that. Nobody’s running their own website on their own servers. It’s all Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. I mean, the site you’re currently reading this on isn’t under my control. It’s

The fear is that people are forgetting how to create for the web. They are forgetting the joy of building things for themselves that other people could use. One of the goals of the IndieWeb is the give people a reason to create again.

Now I’m not a Web Developer, but I think I’d like to try my hand at it. I don’t need to centralize all of my data but I would like an online presence that I control. Something that I could constantly work on. Something that’s never finished. Much like the web itself.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: The Web and Self Doubt

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Internet recently.  More specifically the Web. At work, I’ve gotten the reputation for being the “Web Guy.”  In IT, you have a person who specializes in one thing for the department.  You’ll have someone for just the network, or the mobile phones.  And while yes, there is a lot of overlap in small teams.  You want to have your go to person.

At work, I’m the go to guy for web applications and browsers.  I’m not really sure when that happened.  There would be a situation where someone would have to work intamenly with a web app or trouble shoot a browser, and I would just happen to have an answer or a strategy for finding the answer.  (Which you quickly find out is better then actually having the answer.)

And a much as I’d like to believe it, this wasn’t just random happenstance.  My career with the web has kind of been a straight line.  I’m 31 and most people my age first got online when with AOL.  Thankfully, I can’t make that claim.  Was a Prodigy kid from the mid-90’s.  My cousin and I one time printed out ever URL to the internet.  Yeah, that’s how far back I go.  I had the Internet in a binder.

(I want to believe that the binder glowed with the power of thousands of interconnected computers and human potential.  More likely, it glowed with the power of thousands of sparkles and Lisa Frank designs.)

Of course from there, I did go to the much more easy to use – for the time – AOL.  I was plugging URL’s at random into Prodigy.  I welcomed AOL and it’s ability to condense all of the internet into a portal.  (Some Facebook and Google still fight over to this day.)

In high school, I learned HTML and in college I started using web apps like Blogger and Deviant Art back when Web 2.0 was still a new concept.  For some people, it still is.  One of the first real jobs I ever had was working for a web app.

The point I’m trying to make is that the web is in my blood.  It’s who I am.  It’s what I used to watch movies about when I was growing up.  It was all people on television could talk about in the 90’s.  Of course, I’m the guy who handles web stuff.  What the fuck else would I be doing?

My assumption always is that I’m the base line.  Everyone is always going to be more or less whatever I am.  This really isn’t me being egotistical.  I’m always going to be one of the points that I use to triangulate the world with, and because of that I can convince myself that everyone can do what I can do, which means that nothing I do this special.

I know how to debug HTML.  I didn’t go to college for it, it’s just something that I’ve picked up because I’m interested, yet my assumption is that everyone know’s HTML.  It’s not true.  And know just that one kind of web code, is a very useful skill.  There are people that don’t work in the tech industry at all, that use HTML almost everyday to save their asses.

Knowing your value can be something that’s kind of hard to do.  No one wants to come off as full of shit.  After nearly 20 years of studying, using, and making the web, I can say this with absolutely no ego:

I’m kind of okay.