04 September 2020
My first website was a hand coded HTML with a couple of sentences about me and a table of links that I found useful.
My website used to be composed of custom HTML pages, hosted on a rotating rust server in my home. Now I publish using an ASCIIDoc and Markdown translation application that wraps my text in HTML 5 syntax and then I scp it to my virtual private server (VPS) hosted in the Blue Ocean cloud.
While HTML is a terrific standard for the representation of how a document should be rendered on the web, Markdown and ASCIIDoc are closer to this author’s goals. Which is better? I am really ambivalent about this. Markdown is great for simple pages, tables, images and links are easily expressed in most dialects. ASCIIDoc is what you want for complicated (think book scale) manuscripts. It was initially implemented in Python, the reference implementation is now in Ruby, which is relatively easy to bring to the JVM.
I use Markdown to document projects on Github. I really wish I could choose one and stick with it. ASCIIDoc just flows easily, Markdown syntax is something that I still have to think about. The weblog is mostly ASCIIDoc, when I have to create a post that can be shared in other media I use Markdown, which is not rendered with the same fidelity using my website generator JBake.
The clincher for me with JBake was that it also supported RSS, the web standard for syndication. While there is debate about the meaning of the acronym, "RDF Site Summary" seems to be the original intention, but I like the later day "Really Simple Syndication" interpretation. These standards allowed everyone to create websites that could be followed by a reader’s browser using metadata. The browsers did not exploit this feature. Developers did create sites that track RSS and present links to users.
Google Reader was the dominant RSS consumer for a while. It turns out that an application is not the same as a global standard, Google used their enormous computing resources to create a very simple, yet elegant web application that totally achieved the purpose of RSS. It turns out that this kind of web does not increase revenue for an advertising based company. I moved to Feedly. I do not mind paying for a RSS feed aggregator. They really do provide an excellent interface and I will continue to support them. We do need a simple website aggregator to provide this service to people that do not have the financial means to support a company that provides this service.