I was reading Plutarch. Or maybe it was Ovid, but Plutarch is more likely... Well, anyway, so I was reading a book by one of those ancient guys and suddenly I realized: while those guys wrote their stuff over two thousand years ago, it is still navigable. On the contrary, things that I wrote in my blogs mere two or three years ago are so deeply buried under all other posts that they're effectively dead. In the sense that even if there are tremendously wise ideas contained in one of those posts, nobody will ever discover them anyway. So I started to think about an alternative.

Oh, and by the way, "thinking about" means exactly that, thinking, and not googling around for an alternative that already exists. See, I had a livejournal since sometime like 2004 and I've tried other platforms too, and never really liked any of them, and over these years my personal list of complaints grew long and so there were plenty of things to think about.

And speaking of my personal list of complaints, forced timelining is a clear and definite number one... I almost can hear you asking "What the hell do you mean by `forced timelining`?" and what I mean is when you have a timestamp attached to every entry and the whole thing is sorted newer-to-later to form a timeline. And now I can you asking "But what's your problem with it?" and I must say that it's a kind of legit question. At least, this pattern is ubiquitous, every social networking website sorts statuses by time of posting and every blogging platform does the same thing and yet, if we're talking about anything remotely close to "thoughts" and "reflections", this model is astonishingly irrelevant. I agree, if you want to tell the world about how you went for a date yesterday, then mixing it with how you got drunk five years ago probably doesn't make sense. But if these are well-thought-out reflections on philosophy or society or engineering or anything else worth being popped out to the front page of the website despite of being written five years ago, then the website engine must automatically do just that.

Other thing that over the years I became increasingly tired with is comments. Again, they are everywhere, Facebook has it, Blogger has it, even New York Times website has comments. And yet, I just stopped to like them. The very fact that every person on this planet (including your employer, secret services analysts and random trolls) may potentially look into your discussion has a great effect on the discussion itself. It becomes less intimate, more cautious and yet more pretentious, even more propagandist sometimes. More defensive and more offensive at the same time, almost like at a battlefield, and that's so boring! Hey, the whole concept of "trolling" only exists in the contextual space of public discussion: if someone insults you in a private email, you just hit "Delete" and that's it, trollfest is over, but when there are other people watching your quarrel, it's different. I don't claim that it is bad per se, but I just don't like it any more. I prefer a personal 1-on-1 talk over email. Or over a beer.

Another important problem with any hosted platform is that they all are constantly changing. That's a well-known plague of software in general; I've worked as software engineer for many years and despite all differences between the companies I worked at I can tell you there was one rock-solid invariant: people in charge of defining the product always want to change it. No exceptions. When software is installed on your own computer it's easier as at least you're not forced to upgrade, and if for some reasons you hate Windows 8 or OSX Maverics you can stick to the previous versions of them... But if you would like to stick to 2010 version of Facebook, the only option I have for you is to weep in silence, and it's even worse with 2010 version of Google Reader.

This list may continue, but it already became clear to me that:
  1. Without comments or timeline, it is going to be not a blog, but actually something directly opposite to it. Antiblog is an obvious choice of a name for it while "an asocial network" was also a strong contender.
  2. It must be self-hosted. No off-the-shelf blog service would ever give me either stability regarding things I've not asked for or freedom to tweak things the way I want.
  3. Given (2) it is tempting to pick an existing open source blog like Wordpress or Movable Type and then tweak them into exactly what I want, but given (1) it is already easier (and funnier) to write my own engine from scratch.
So, in few weeks' evenings I crafted one and it has just rendered this essay's page for you. I guess that the best way to describe the distinctive features is by outlining what Antiblog doesn't have.
  • As you could notice, there is no timeline. Instead, posts are rotated every night, so that the last one is put to the top. And when I add a new one, it doesn't immediately go to the top, but it is inserted to a random place in the deck patiently waiting for the prime time. Moreover, there's also no data in the backend database to rebuild the timeline: publication and editing dates are not stored and entry IDs (e.g. this one is #7593454) are just random seven-digits numbers.
  • There's an RSS feed which is more a parody of one: every day one post is picked at random and put to the top of the list, regardless of when it was actually posted.
  • Also, there is no (and never will be!) comments. I like to receive emails as you remember.
  • And there's also no collection of per-visitor statistics. Earlier versions of website engine had statistics tracking of some kind, but then I shredded that altogether. Just because until you have a somewhat monetizable million hits per month, staring at those vanity metrics is nothing but waste of time.
  • And here are no other bells and whistles either, just plain old text made of plain old words. It was enough for Ovid, and it's enough for me too.
So, that's what Antiblog is basically about. If you liked the idea and want to have your own one, feel free to ask me to share the sources... Unless you're scared by one or more of: Linux, Haskell, PL/pgSQL or HTTP API to push posts directly from command line; then you might as well consider allocating several evenings to build your own thing yourself.