Missing Persons

I've been thinking more about what I want this blog to be for me and others, and I've been thinking even more about why Github Pages is set up the way it is. It's a very convenient place for programmers and web developers to showcase some basic skills and get a free jumping-off point to build their personal brand - a professional photograph, a few tutorials for cutting-edge projects, and that sort of thing. I absolutely understand why that happens and I applaud those who have made it work for them. It is also, after only brief exposure to a handful of Jekyll/GitHub Pages sites, driving me absolutely bananas.

I don't claim to know a lot about a lot, but I really think this is a loss for programming culture. We all grew up knowing that being a "programmer" was a job, but being a "hacker" was something special, different - pretty cool, in other words. I think a lot of these people I see setting up portfolio websites here are probably pretty cool people, but honestly, from what little I've seen so far, I wouldn't have a way of knowing it for sure. GitHub Pages with Jekyll should and could be a way to, as Mr. Preston-Werner's original blog post put it, blog like a hacker. Instead, most people seem to be using it as a way to present your resume like, well, a programmer. It's a good tool for that, for sure. It could be so much more.

We all know Microsoft owns Github now. That's fine, in its way - Microsoft has embraced, partially extended, but not yet extinguished the existence of the many thriving open-source codebases living on Github. I'm really really trying not to go all Stallman on everyone here because I know that's easy to do and hard to come back from - certainly I'm no open-source purist in my personal life. I do, however, think that direct corporate control over every aspect of how we express ourselves is a problem, and the fact that so many people seem to bend over backwards to make their own personal, easily anonymizable blogs nothing more than signposts for prospective employers is sad. Microsoft could easily do its best to contend with an activist or hacktivist presence on GitHub Pages blogs, if it were given the opportunity, but do they even need to if we censor ourselves preemptively?

I think that's what scares me here. Everyone in this particular micro-ecosystem, just by virtue of setting up Jekyll, knows just enough to be dangerous, but nobody seems to want to. Please understand that I'm not under the illusion that I'm the rebel, here - all I really want to do is survive the COVID-19 quarantine and eventually get my old job back. But shouldn't some of us, at least, want more than that? Even on the standard social networks - Twitter, Facebook, what portion of Tumblr is still kicking around, Wordpress blogs - people act out. They throw fits about everything from politics to fanfiction and have a good old time of it. The idea that a medium specifically for hackers should be more "grown-up" than that is repulsive to me.

Maybe I just want my friends here to talk to. Maybe I'll invite them and walk them through setting up their own spaces here - Lord knows there are enough tutorials out there. But really I'd just like to have more people show their faces here, not as a glorified LinkedIn but as an actual blogging platform.

For all those for whom this description doesn't fit - don't worry, I wasn't talking about you, keep doing your thing. For those whom it does - again, kudos to you for making it work, we just have somewhat different views on what public discourse should look like and where it should take place. I also promise not every post will be my idealistic rantings - but then again, some of it will be. Why apologize for yourself if you don't have to?