< back

preliminary thoughts on spring '83, as an artist

wednesday 22nd june 2022

i’ll say it, i’m really loving having a little corner that i can just dedicate to one single purpose. i struggle a lot with getting distracted and not following through, so having a place i can see everyone else updating their boards is inspirational for me to take the moment to sit down and write a little haiku. i guess i’m a little surprised that the main thing i’m loving on a platform with no interaction between users, is the interaction between my board and everyone else in my springfile[*]. it feels pure in a way, to not be able to message or like or comment natively - everyone has their own solutions to links out, to emails or mailing lists or whatever. it feels like going on a little walk to a house show because you saw a cool poster in your favourite bar, rather than shouting across the infinite plane directly into someone's ear.

lately, i’ve been doing a lot of contemplating on the internet as a place, on context collapse, and how we can do better and be kinder and think more humanly about each of our presences online - and i think the loss of customisable homepages went a long way to accelerating that sterile numbness now present across most of social media. spring ’83 boards are so inherently creative, it’s beautiful to have that kind of customisation not only encouraged but really forced

i think it’s interesting to see how people are starting to link them out to other places - chase’s board ⧉ asked the question if anyone had embedded theirs yet, so i did ⧉, taking that question as inspiration (though i had already been thinking about it) as a way of archiving my poems. i can see that ryan embedded one of his too ⧉ - hosted on his own server - with a note that it’s much easier to update than the rest of his site. i think that’s super interesting, because to me it’s absolutely the same! i’m not a super technically minded person (though i did make this blog literally just to post this piece of writing but i still feel like that's amateur hour around here) but there's something so fundamental about the spring '83 way of interacting with the web. i am getting pretty hot on css, and my main website is very simple static pages i coded entirely from scratch myself with no boilerplate or tools - so the process of updating my spring ’83 board is pretty much identical to the process of updating my actual website.

i’m a bit of a purist in this sense though - i was trying to avoid having any javascript on my site at all but i had to concede to allow animated favicons and custom cursors (a necessity). when making the switch away from wix (a move that is still in progress, but i’m almost completely out of their ecosystem now) i just wanted to commit to understanding every part of the process as much as i could, and to me that meant building it from a totally blank html document - because that’s the essence of the web. tools which abstract that process in the name of making it easier only serve to frustrate and obfuscate how something actually works - we end up with something beautiful and complex that we don’t actually understand under the hood, a lot of the time.

as someone who has only very recently learned how to use a command line, i was a bit nervous about the process of running the demo client and the documentation initially absolutely overwhelmed me - but i’m so glad i got over that hurdle!! it’s wonderful to see that the idea grabbed the attention of others, too. i feel very at home amongst people who are also captivated by the beauty, relative simplicity, and the feel of it.

really, anything that serves to make this more ‘responsive’ or ‘timely’ or, god forbid chronological will be something i reject outright. i love the chaos (and control) of having a fixed layout of boards which is user configurable - i think those fixed points can lead to interesting connections and ways of organising thoughts which are inaccessible in timeline based media, and any shift towards ‘recently updated’ at the top steers us terrifyingly close to that cliff edge. i like not having it thrown in my face when something was updated, unless i really want to see it. i like imagining it could have been there unchanged for decades - or it could have been updated the second before i logged on. that frozen uncertainty is beautiful for me in a world of urgency and timestamps and read receipts. i think we will do well to stick far closer to a poster on a wall than a push notification - which takes me to...

i am really wishing that the vision of scattered, tightly stacked, magazine adverts was more faithfully replicated. to be on a client which has padding between boards, everything a uniform size, and rss feeds sort-of-ish supported, was not really what i imagined - though i know robin doesn’t want to take the lead on client development. i think it could really come into its own with 0 padding/margin between boards, custom board sizes/aspect ratio (maybe chosen from a few standardised variables, to allow fitting in a grid and prevent misuse), and a standardised and aesthetically considered way to include rss links, if it is to include rss links at all. to me, the rss inclusions feel a bit like an unconsidered afterthought or nod to another way it could be used, but the demo client isn’t hitting the spot in the way in which they’re integrated. i hope that those who are developing clients now are thinking real hard about the aesthetic statement their clients make - and i dare you to let us have custom sizing fit onto an auto-populating, full width, zero-padding grid. if you have to take my precious border-radius away to allow it, so be it!

i showed this post to my partner who told me about the minecraft server tb2t’s newsletter ⧉, which takes the form of a map segment they use as a pixel grid for displaying daily news. i think it’s a really neat implementation of this idea of a virtual noticeboard, a fixed point which changes rather than a feed which scrolls. i think it is interesting, and perhaps a bit suspect, how quickly everyone has started to make their boards into mini-feeds, archives of their own history, timestamped, and interactive. honestly, i do bristle to that usage, compared to the purity of thought that was present in the original writing about the spec.

more information on the spring '83 protocol can be found here ⧉ on robin's blog, and the spec is here ⧉ (including a link to download robin's demo client, and links to other implementations). if you're on robin's server ⧉ and you'd like to add my board to your springfile, my key is e310afd5a0529279947e4bb79ae686543102a8e864867dd4b8e90101e83e0123.

[*] a springfile is the name for the list of board urls which your spring '83 client reads, so it can display you the right boards. i'd been having a bit of trouble with this clearing out quite often, so i just made a local backup. i've also been backing up my boards!