On a dull day in autumn 1991 I took some photos of the City from Tower Bridge, and then went to the Isle of Dogs to look at the start of Canary Wharf. Last week I took photos from the same places 30 years on. Not quite the anniversary but the weather was irresistible.
London in 1991 was in recession after the short-lived 80s boom. It was still a rather sad and tatty place (though that might have been the weather). London 2021 is glutted with (very unevenly distributed) wealth and even the pandemic could not stop the towers rising.
Following through on Daniel’s rabbit trail, it seems that there is a microtrend of social media and megaplatform sceptics returning to (or more consciously continuing) their personal sites and blogs. I thought I was just futzing about aimlessly ;-) with my site design and iterated ideas, but it's actually called digital gardening.
1. Topography over Timelines
Gardens are organised around contextual relationships and associative links; the concepts and themes within each note determine how it's connected to others. [check]
2. Continuous Growth
Gardens are never finished, they're constantly growing, evolving, and changing. [check]
3. Imperfection & Learning in Public
Gardens are imperfect by design. They don't hide their rough edges or claim to be a permanent source of truth. [check]
4. Playful, Personal, and Experimental
The point of a garden is that it's a personal playspace. You organise the garden around the ideas and mediums that match your way of thinking, rather than off someone else's standardised template. [check]
5. Intercropping & Content Diversity
Gardens are not just a collection of interlinked words. While linear writing is an incredible medium that has served us well for a little over 5000 years, it is daft to pretend working in a single medium is a sufficient way to explore complex ideas. [check]
6. Independent Ownership
Gardening is about claiming a small patch of the web for yourself, one you fully own and control. This patch should not live on the servers of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram (aka. also Facebook), or Medium... If any of those services go under, your writing and creations sink with it. [check]
See also Mike Caulfield's essay 'The Garden and the Stream', which appears to have originated the current use of the term. He pins my dissatisfaction with the 'stream' convention which I first felt in 2006 when starting on Flickr, and finding that I couldn't add old photos 'upstream' without disrupting my current feed. I didn't think a photo collection should be organised that way.
We each have our obstacles and circumstances, but try not to think in terms of “there’s not enough time,” because your site, whether an archive for personal thought or more of a visual/code sandbox, is a gentle, ongoing investment. You tend your domain like you steadily improve your home, and it can take years of false starts and incremental commits. Don’t think of it as urgent work, or — heaven forbid — a “side-hustle”.
So now I feel fully validated for sticking with my own self-made, self-owned spaces over twenty years.
I’m not sure how widespread or impactful this trend is [I hope it's a revolution], but at least I feel less alone and ridiculous :-)
Oh, and I'm blogging again, I suppose.
Last Friday 28th May was my final day at my job of 14.5 years. Somehow it’s taken a week to get around to noting that here, due to all the admin that goes with such a thing - contacts to be transferred, software to be removed and installed, persons to be notified, etc. Plus all the other things in life.
I resigned in order to break a downward spiral of overwork and declining health that had developed since 2016. I had been taking a month or more off each year to recover but it needed something more. The pandemic added its own issues that many of us have noted - long working hours, loss of boundaries, lack of exercise, Zoom fatigue, loss of the support and efficiencies that come from being in the same space as co-workers.
At this point the intention is to take six months off before I look for work - if my finances and my nerve hold. If work comes looking for me, it will be asked to wait a while. I’ve used the metaphor of a clearing - the soil of a forest is full of dormant seeds, but nothing grows until a clearing is made. Then the sun and the rain fall on the soil, and what is dormant emerges. This is a time to see what emerges. I don’t particularly intend to leave my profession or specialisms, but there are aspects of both that could not flourish in the narrow-focus grind of difficult projects.
I have mixed feelings about leaving. I'm moved by the nice things that have been said to me. I will miss the everyday reality of the office, my co-workers and friends. To soften the blow I'm reconnecting with many of them, to still plug into the social life and chit-chat. It's easier to stay connected now than it was last time I left a job in 2006. This is not unknown at TP Bennett, there are quite a few ex-employees who maintain connections and sometimes return to work there (my replacement is one such). TP Bennett actually started an 'alumni' group that had its first get-together in late 2019 - and was then paused. Maybe I'll be part of that.
The general reaction has been that I am doing the right thing - it's a little scary, but it feels like a hopeful act. So I let go of my fears and take my rest.
sorry about all this messing about with the logo. every time i think i've nailed it, and then i think, "no"...
and you have to wait for the browser cache to catch up again.
what i'm aiming for these days is something that might be found on the back of a citroen SM. that weird angularity that the french used to do so well. see also the spaceman audacieuse watch. and inspiration from the rinse fm logo.
but the letters of 'small ritual' are an awkward bunch to combine, even pushed to the edge of legible. compare new order - the perfect graphic name. just play with the O, or italicise one word, or even omit the vowels nwrdr.
and the colours - always circling back to the british rail corporate identity.
"I'm allowing my subconscious to take over, so that I can free associate. You have to be in a state of play to design. If you're not in a state of play, you can't make anything."
in the background until needed
simple and self-explanatory
good enough for everybody
elaboration and concealment
quality reserved for a few
It only took me 7 years to do it. In 2014 I rebuilt it as a sketch for a responsive site, but didn't do the responsive bit. The Grace site followed on using the same format and was responsive. I never got back to fixing the labyrinth site although I was embarrassed by its failure to work on a phone.
Now there is another issue - the online labyrinth is made in Flash and is becoming inaccessible to most users. This is a pity as its low-res animations are still delightful. I will make screen recordings that can at least be watched and heard, although the interactivity won't be there.
The labyrinth website (and the online labyrinth) will be 20 years old in September. I was busy 20 years ago.
The actual launch date is not recorded, but it was between 1st and 5th November 2000. I bought the domain on 1st October 2000, it took a month to make the site.
This one will be 20 next December.
The whole of my smallritual blog is now in the archive here, and I will be closing the Typepad blog by the end of the year. I haven't used it for a long while, and it costs quite a lot to maintain.
The peak years of the blog were 2004-2010. It was patchy but still regular until 2013. Then the number of posts went into decline, and it collapsed in 2015. There were a couple of posts in 2016 and one in 2018, and then nothing.
Facebook must of course take much of the blame. I was on Facebook from about 2011, but I never liked it. Leaving aside the security and privacy issues, and the way they kept rearranging feeds for dubious reasons, and the unattractive uncustomisable interface... the ideal length of a Facebook post was wrong for me. Different media have different natural writing lengths. A tweet is a couple of sentences. A Facebook post is a paragraph. A blog entry is five paragraphs. Medium is a short essay. Where you belong depends on your natural thought length. Mine is a blog post.
So Facebook took the time I would have spent blogging, but I didn't do anything useful with it. I also doubted that my material would be available to re-read or link to after a year or two. I abandoned Facebook amid the hysteria of 2016, and finally closed the account in 2018.
In the meantime, I had many blog posts in my head, but never the time or motivation to post them. I was busy rebuilding the Grace website and its huge archive, and then this one, and lately smallfire.org, and designing and publishing a couple of books. Ironically, I had complained from the very first month of blogging that I was too busy/tired to blog and would rather play with visuals instead!
So now what? There is always content going up here. I can write on the home page like this and call it a blog, as I did for the first two years. I was never happy that I had to split my blog and this site, because this site is my primary home on the web. It made sense to have the blog as the home page, but I never found a way of reintegrating it when it was on Typepad.
But I still feel a pang at closing the old blog. It was an important part of my life for ten years.