Essays on Technology and Culture

Shared Knowledge and the Old-School Web

I recently discovered Sean Korzdorfer’s Open Notebook, and it’s provided me with some interesting reading, and thinking about the various workflows in my life. Sean puts a lot of thought into the systems he uses to make his life go, far more than I usually do. Of the nuggets of wisdom I’ve pulled from the Open Notebook are ways to better incorporate the awesome reminders tool into my day, using Daily Routine to add structure to my days, and given me a lot to think about journaling.

There’s something wonderfully old-school about the Open Notebook. It reminds me of the early days of the web, when a personal site was typically a huge mish-mash of stuff. In those wild days, your typical “home page” could as easily contain a proto-blog, links to useful freeware, recipes, and shrines to your favorite television programs. You don’t see that too often any more, and while Sean Korzdorfer’s Open Notebook is (slightly) more focused, it feels as deeply personal as those old personal pages from the 1990s—though better looking.

A while back, I commented on Frank Chimero’s post about what a personal website means in 2014. I wondered, like Frank, “How do you bring all of those silos and streams under one banner, one roof, and make it work?”. Frank’s taken a very old school, 90s personal-site approach in the intervening months, with links to different sections, putting everything under the same roof, but organized and coherent—and with 2014 calibre web design.

What makes Sean Korzdorfer’s Open Notebook different is that it’s as much a resource as it is a personal statement. He’s sharing his knowledge of what works for him, in a way that allows strangers like to me build on what he has done. It’s the same openness and share-alike philosophy that made the early web so interesting. When the web was a frontier and not yet a catalog or a bunch of social apps, people built off of each other’s knowledge and experience. How many web designers and developers got their start from using “View Source” in Netscape 3.04?

None of this has gone away, but it’s not as common or visible as it used was. It’s probably time that changed.