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Discovering the Small Web

HN is experiencing an influx of articles about the state of the Web - with 'Gardens and Streams' getting reposted and a string of articles from neustadt.fr.

Here's a comment from one of those threads:

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I've been thinking about this for ages, and I want my own contribution to this to be a simple webring service.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept, a webring was a simple circular linked list. You had a link on your knitting-themed site to the "next knitting-themed site", that site had a link to the next one, etc.

To join the ring, you just emailed someone and said "hey, I, too, have a knitting-themed site, can you add me to your webring?", they looked at your site, and changed their link to your site, you added the link they previously had, and the ring continued.

I want to build something simple that'll serve a small widget with previous/next/random site buttons, it'll work like the webrings of old regarding the curation aspect, so to get added you'll need to be referred to by someone.

Would you use something like that? You'd basically just drop a bit of HTML on your page and it wouldn't load heavy JS/analytics/crap, just whatever was necessary to paint a few links.

People know that gaming the algorithm and SEO has become insanely obfuscated - time to get back to simple "linking to each other".

Same thread has an interesting comment about webrings vs directories:

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Personally I also started longing for webrings recently; they seem more personal to me than directories, and there's more excitement of surprise and discovery. Also I think they're more "slow paced" and involved: you have to go through them one by one, whereas with directories you may look at the titles and already start making judgements based on the titles alone.

I think I'd say there's space for directories (again???) and there's space for webrings (again!). Though it kinda feels weird to me how Google removed the need for directories and webrings at a time (and I distinctly remember the relief), and now Google results got so crappy (destroyed by SEO?) that the need starts to come back :/ such that even I myself feel it.

I still prefer directories because webrings are just too constrained - but it's good to hear this perspective.

Re: Discovering the Small Web

Reply #1
I think there is room for both webrings and directories.  And there is a valid point about users making judgments about sites from the description in a directory.  (Before there was Search Engine optimization there was directory optimization which was about submitting the best title, description and keywords for your directory listing that would 1. catch the human eye, 2. be found by directory users, 3. still conform to the directory editor's rules.  Tricky thing to do all three.)

Webrings with just a Back, Random, Forward navigation have the problem with scale.  After about 50 listings, webrings become cumbersome with just those 3 navigation points and start needing an index page.  However a webring can be very effective for linking small sites on a particular topic.

It's good to see interest continuing.

Re: Discovering the Small Web

Reply #2
bumped into (and enjoyed) Rediscovering the Small Web at Neustadt.fr this morning:
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Most websites today are built like commercial products by professionals and marketers, optimised to draw the largest audience, generate engagement and 'convert'. But there is also a smaller, less-visible web designed by regular people to simply to share their interests and hobbies with the world. A web that is unpolished, often quirky but often also fun, creative and interesting.
Some interesting history and perspective - on my todos to read it again more closely.

And Brad, I started playing with a webring like idea similar to something I did back in 2000. Since you mentioned a micro.blog webring (and limitations you were experiencing), it been in the back of my mind. Looked at some of my old scripts today and something simple dawned on me (though I still need to think it through). If I get anything accomplished with it, I'll let you know...

Update 06/03/20: I had some difficulty with modifying my old scripts to do what I wanted and decided to try something else. I found a WP plugin that does work somewhat ("Draupnir Ringmanager"). It hasn't been updated in 5 years and has not been officially tested with the latest WP version but I decided to give it a try. I'm troubleshooting the Ring Management part of it but otherwise, I've got it working. Go to any of my webthings and look for "i.webthings explorer" to see it - for now, it only uses my various sites as a working example to play with as time allows. Cheers.

Re: Discovering the Small Web

Reply #3

Update 06/03/20: I had some difficulty with modifying my old scripts to do what I wanted and decided to try something else. I found a WP plugin that does work somewhat ("Draupnir Ringmanager"). It hasn't been updated in 5 years and has not been officially tested with the latest WP version but I decided to give it a try. I'm troubleshooting the Ring Management part of it but otherwise, I've got it working. Go to any of my webthings and look for "i.webthings explorer" to see it - for now, it only uses my various sites as a working example to play with as time allows. Cheers.


Joe I liked the idea of the Draupinir webring plugin when I looked at it.  The cool thing about Draupinir is almost anybody can install a WP plugin which opens up webring hosting to a mass of webmasters.  The problem was it was getting horribly old and not being maintained. 

I'm really glad you managed to bring it into working order.  Nobody else has a good webring script anymore. 

I took a look at it working on your site: Nice Clean.  And a webring is a neat way to link all your many websites together.

Re: Discovering the Small Web

Reply #4
And a webring is a neat way to link all your many websites together.
I'm hoping to turn it into a webring which links the i.webthings hub to others' personal blogs and projects around the web. For now, I'm just using my sites as a way to develop and test the webring. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

Re: Discovering the Small Web

Reply #5
And a webring is a neat way to link all your many websites together.
I'm hoping to turn it into a webring which links the i.webthings hub to others' personal blogs and projects around the web. For now, I'm just using my sites as a way to develop and test the webring. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

I love it when somebody kills two birds with one stone, so to speak. 

Re: Discovering the Small Web

Reply #6
Only a few of my blogs plus the hub will be included when I open the ring up to others' personal blogs and sites.

Re: Discovering the Small Web

Reply #7
That's really cool, Joe! It looks great. I'll bet a lot of Wordpress folks would be interested in a module like that. Well done.

Re: Discovering the Small Web

Reply #8
Thanks Kicks.

The plugin actually 'works out of the box' (except the emails it generates have a big flaw). So I modified how sites are submitted - simpler and more in line with my preferences. I'll want to visit and approve the site before sending the ring code out anyway.

The plugin automatically checks member sites for the ring code which is a great feature in my mind. Who wants to hit a dead end in the ring! When I see someone's code missing, I can temporarily mark them as inactive until I see the codes been put back so people surfing the ring isn't rudely interrupted - I like that.

Modified a number of other things not mentioned above - I'll be running with it soon.....

Re: Discovering the Small Web

Reply #9
Some news from the “really sucks department.”

I've killed the webring because the plugin may have been causing issues on the server. I'm not certain about that, but I should have known better.

So - I wouldn't recommend using the plugin (even though it was fun trying it out).

 

Re: Discovering the Small Web

Reply #10
Some news from the “really sucks department.”

I've killed the webring because the plugin may have been causing issues on the server. I'm not certain about that, but I should have known better.

So - I wouldn't recommend using the plugin (even though it was fun trying it out).

Gah!  Thanks for the heads up Joe.  Joining was on my weekend to-do list. 

It's a shame that the plugin didn't work.  The general concept of a Wordpress plugin for creating/hosting webrings is a really interesting idea so with the renewed interest in webrings maybe someone will come up with a totally new plugin that works.  We can hope.