The Handcrafted Artisanal Web

John Scalzi talked a while back about How to Weave the Artisan Web:

1. Create/reactivate your own site, owned by you, to hold your own work. 

2. When you create that site, write or otherwise present work on your site at least once a week, every week.

3. Regularly visit the sites of other creators to read/see/experience the work they present there.

4. Promote/link the work of others, on your own site and also on your other social media channels where you have followers. Encourage your followers to explore more widely, beyond the algorithmic borders of “social media.”

John Scalzi

I do agree with those suggestions, even if I’m not always the best at doing them myself.

I’ve been reading some of the recent discourse about the state of the internet, about enshittification and how things have gotten dumber, meaner, just all around worse. I can’t say I disagree, though I do think a lot of it is missing an important part – they’re talking about the mainstream internet. The popular internet. There have always been niches that have trundled along happily even while the masses flocked to Facebook and Twitter and TikTok and similar, and those niches are still bopping along – I imagine some are even experiencing a renaissance as they suddenly get an influx of people abruptly untethered from the social media teat.

But it is true, things have gotten shittier. Sites have gotten greedier while also getting worse. I feel like technology in general has been following a path of gross oversimplification in a race to the bottom, to the detriment of users (but in the short term, to the benefit of the bottom line). It can feel a little disheartening.

I think there are examples of all of these things working already, of course. The success of something like Dropout TV or, heck, even Substack proves that, yes, small-ish digital media businesses can work. And early in the pandemic, young TikTok stars realized that you needed a digital home base, whether it was a YouTube channel, Instagram page, or Linktree. Also, even if I think POSSE sites are ugly and silly, I support interoperability across social networks. I dream of the day that Mastodon, Bluesky, Tumblr, and Threads all link together on ActivityPub to create The Site.

Ryan Broderick, The Garbage Optimist Manifesto

It’s possible that there will magically be some new Site that wins back the masses, that feels fresh and new and captures minds and hearts. But it won’t last, as long as we’re in the clutches of extractive capitalism, with the people holding the purse strings deluding themselves into believing growth is king and can be had in perpetuity.

I think the right path forward is to stop assuming there will be some amazing site to rule them all, where you’ll suddenly achieve virality and become rich and an infinitely large following. The future is returning to an artisanal web, where you cultivate your niches and small communities, where maybe you don’t become a millionaire and a star, but you do feel a sense of belonging, and maybe make enough to get by. I think that’d be okay, honestly. I think it’s great that you can make money by making things on the internet! …but I also think the past decade or so has been hypercapitalist ultrarich treating it as a money-printing machine, a cash cow that they’re milking dry. I don’t know what they’ll move on to next, but frankly I think the sooner the billionaires move on, the better it’ll be for everyone.

2 thoughts on “The Handcrafted Artisanal Web

Comments are closed.


  • 🔖 Ben Werdmuller