A Text Renaissance, Ribbonfarm, Feb 2020

There is a renaissance underway in online text as a medium. The Four Horsemen of this emerging Textopia are:

  1. Roam, a hypertext publishing platform best understood as a medium for composing conspiracy theories and extended universes.
  2. Substack, a careful and thorough ground-up neoclassical reconstruction of the age-old email newsletter.
  3. Static websites, built out of frameworks like Jekyll or Gatsby (full disclosure: a consulting client).
  4. And finally, Threaded Twitter, a user-pioneered hack-turned-supported feature that has wonderfully revitalized the platform.

I don’t think static websites necessarily belong here, other than as a tech tool that people are powering personal blogs with. That is: this self ownership / self hosting, and the desire to write is the thing, the usage of static site generators is just a side effect.

Markdown as a native text writing format – also used in Roam – is probably a more key expression, which SSG’s use natively, and thus get picked.

The text renaissance is an actual renaissance. It’s a story of history-inspired renewal in a very fundamental way: exciting recent developments are due in part to a new generation of young product visionaries circling back to the early history of digital text, rediscovering old, abandoned ideas, and reimagining the bleeding edge in terms of the unexplored adjacent possible of the 80s and 90s.


Mentioned in my TiddlyWiki Serverless blog post, and @kilomeow found the link, which reminded me to read it again and bring it in here as an article.