This Website is Designed to Last

“My proposal is seven unconventional guidelines in how we handle websites designed to be informative, to make them easy to maintain and preserve. The guiding intention is that the maintainer will try to keep the website up for at least 10 years, maybe even 20 or 30 years. These are not controversial views necessarily, but are aspirations that are not mainstream—a manifesto for a long-lasting website.”

Read more: A Manifesto for Preserving Content on the Web, Jeff Huang.

See also: A clean start for the web, Tom MacWright.

The Galaksija: Socialism’s DIY Computer

The Galaksija computer was a craze in 1980s Yugoslavia, inspiring thousands of people to build versions in their own homes. The idea behind them was simple – to make technology available to everyone. Free play was implicitly encouraged: the sharing, collaboration, manipulation, and proliferation of software was built into Galaksija’s very operation.

A computing enthusiast since 1979, Zoran Modli caught wind of Galaksija after the publication of Computers in Your Home. As host and DJ of Ventilator 202—a renowned New Wave radio show on Serbia’s Radio Beograd 202—Modli was something of a minor celebrity in Yugoslavia. Because all the day’s computers, including Galaksija, ran their programs on cassette, Regasek thought Modli might broadcast programs over the airwaves as audio during his show. The idea was that listeners could tape the programs off their receivers as they were broadcast, then load them into their personal machines.

An overnight sensation, this DJing practice quickly became a staple on Modli’s show. In the ensuing months, Ventilator 202 broadcast hundreds of computer programs. During the hour, Modli would announce when the segment was approaching, signaling to his listeners that it was time for them to fetch their equipment, cue up a tape, and get ready to hit record. In the case of games, users would “download” the programs off the radio and alter them—inserting their own levels, challenges, and characters—then send them back to Modli for retransmission. In effect, this was file transfer well before the advent of the World Wide Web, a pre-internet pirating protocol.

Read more: Socialism’s DIY Computer, Michael Eby, Tribune, July 2020. Thanks to m.

Telecommunications Reclaimed: Hands-On Guide on Community Networks

This book is a guide on how to build a community network, a shared local telecommunications infrastructure, managed as a commons, to access the internet and other digital communications services. It was written collectively by a group of community network pioneers in Europe, activists and researchers during a writing residency week held in Vic, Catalonia in October 2018.

Meant for a wide audience, the book includes practical knowledge illustrated by several hands-on experiences – a set of 32 real-life stories – as well as legal, technical, governance, economic and policy material extracted from netCommons, a three-year-long research project supported by the European Commission. Its goal is to guide the reader through a set of actions aimed at setting up and fostering the growth of a community network, but also, for policy makers, local administrations and the general public, to create the right conditions to let community networks bloom and flourish.

Telecommunications Reclaimed: A Hands-On Guide to Networking Communities“, netCommons. Open access. Via John Thackara. Previously: How to build a low-tech internet?

Can the Internet Survive Climate Change?

“Engineers within the nascent community of sustainable web design agree on a few core tenets: Advertising is bad, the growth of video streaming must slow, web pages are too bloated, and corporate surveillance has to end.”

Read more: Can the Internet Survive Climate Change? How a warming world is sparking calls for a greener web, Kevin Lozano, The New Republic.

Web Bloat Score Calculator

Most people are probably aware that image files, as a rule, are bigger than plain text files. Yet, as the Web Bloat Calculator website explains, one of the weird things about the way websites have evolved is that their text is frequently so overloaded with superfluous (hidden) coding that they actually consume more energy than they would if the pages were presented solely in image form (ie, if a screenshot was taken of the webpage, and that was what was displayed when people looked up the webpage, rather than the original text). Such code bloat tends to build up in layers over the years and can lead to frenetic, and almost completely meaningless, exchanges of information between servers and browsers.

Web Bloat Score Calculator. Quoted from: Our Lighter Website, feasta.

Another Day, Another Low-tech Website

French designer and researcher Gauthier Roussilhe was inspired by our solar powered website and built a low-tech website himself, documenting the process in detail (and in English). It’s a great work, and there’s some interesting differences with our solar powered blog.

First, Roussilhe built his site with a user friendly content management system (Kirby), which is then converted into a static website. Compared to our approach, this makes it easier to build a light-weight website for those who are accustomed to working with WordPress.

Second, the designer also tackles his videos, which are hosted on Vimeo and Youtube, and manages to reduce their “weight” by 75%. This is a major contribution, because video takes up the largest share of internet traffic.

Here’s his own conclusion:

If we take stock: I reduced the weight of my site by 10, the average weight of a page by more than 3 and I reduced the weight of my videos on third-party services by 4. I have a site extremely simple to administrate, very light so very fast, which consumes very little electricity and therefore emits little GHG.

The site also follows all the canons of today’s digital design: mobile-first, accessibility, loading speed. In fact it is quite surprising to realize that structural limitations (weight / energy) lead to navigation experiences much more accessible to all audiences regardless of their equipment, their connection or their imperative motricity or vision.

Read more: Digital guide to low tech.