Thoughts on the barriers against writing on the web

So, even though I'm using the web for more than a quarter of a century, I only recently tumbled over Bill Beaty's website Science Hobbyist. It exists since 1994 and spreads an absolutely delightful old web vibe. Consider yourself warned: you can spend quite some time in going down the rabbit holes there.

Indeed, Bill has written a lot in nearly three decades. In the answer to the question how he managed to create so much stuff, one phrase struck my particularly:

I don't live in XP or ME or Windows 95. Not win3.1 either. Not MSDOS. I live on the internet, in an ancient unix shell account which is aliased to look a bit like msdos. If I should ever type up a little textfile during other activities on the computer, it only takes me ten seconds to put it on my webpage. Unlike most people, for me the barriers against publishing on internet have entirely evaporated

Isn't that a beautiful idea? The web as a basically immediate writing medium, with basically nothing stands technically in between writing something down and having it published. Alas, rather few people live out their intellectual life entirely in a unix shell.

For most the barriers are firmly there, the friction is as real as the perceived need for access to the web as a medium of personal expression.

Many of today's walled gardens got big, because a part of their initial value proposition was to lower the barriers of entry for many. They generally didn't do that with the public good in mind, and the quality of all those platforms deteriorates in a cycle, that Cory Doctorow has recently sketched out, and coined the colorful and sadly adequate term enshittification for.

I haven't figured out a solution for myself that I would perceive as frictionless yet. This website started out as a single static html file, something that would have indeed been manageable via ssh in a shell. But frankly, while I find my way around vim, I don't particularly enjoy the experience. Apparently, I am not enlightened enough and I like proper UIs maybe a bit too much. So what I have is a Tiddlywiki in which I write down most of my notes. And while I love Tiddlywiki as a writing medium, I don't want to expose all of my notes and I don't want to serve a metric ton of Javascript for completely static content. So now I have, apart from my wiki instance, a few horrible scripts that sit atop of my private wiki instance, filters the parts that are meant for publication (as indicated by tags, which are a very useful first-class primitive of tiddlywiki) and transforms them to some static html. But still, a wiki remains a comparatively non-mainstream interface for writing and the site generation script is a one-off, and I still haven't completely automated the feed generation with that approach. The whole problem it certainly quite a yak to shave, but probably - hopefully - worthwhile.