Jason Gurley

By day, I'm a user experience designer; by evenings/weekends, I write novels from my home in Scappoose, Ore. My newest is Awake in the World, published February 2019 by Roaring Brook Press; my previous novel, Eleanor, was published by Crown in 2016 and has since been translated into German, Portuguese, and Turkish. I’m currently working on a new project.

This place used to be mine

This is a Squarespace site. These days, just about every site seems to be a Squarespace site, or a Wix or a Weebly or a Tumblr or whatever. I use Squarespace because it takes a ton of the work out of maintaining my site. When I want to write a blog, I click a button, I write, I publish. Done. When I want to add a page, I click a different button, type some things. Done. 

One of the books I'm reading right now is called The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, by David Sax. (I very nearly typed 'Steve Sax,' as in the retired Yankees second baseman, and that triggered a memory of "Homer at the Bat," the Simpsons episode in which Sax and a bunch of other mid-1990s baseball stars were hired at Homer Simpson's nuclear plant so that they could play on the company softball team.) The book is about how technology, which promised to replace all things analog, often stumbles, sending us back to the analog things we knew could work, and would always work. 

Web sites, of course, have never been analog. But reading this book, and having spent the last month or so trying to start a habit of keeping a journal, has me nostalgic for the days when I did everything myself. I ran a personal site from about 1998 to 2012 or so, and I wrote nearly ever line of code on that site myself. And lately I sort of miss the hell out of doing that. I was never a terrific front-end developer, of course. Right around the time that CSS-based design started to take off, I made the decision to focus entirely on design and user experience. My coding skills are flash-frozen, circa about 2006 or so.

Ah, the good ol' days of, like, ten years ago

Ah, the good ol' days of, like, ten years ago

But god help me, I have an urge to hand-code this site from the ground up, table-based HTML and all. Spacer gifs and everything. While Squarespace is a terrific service, one that does a lot of heavy lifting so that I don't have to, I think I'm realizing how much I miss the heavy lifting. I like to make things. This web site feels less like a thing I made than it feels like a delivery system for things I wrote. I used to make all of it—the content and the presentation of it all. I'm feeling nostalgic, I suppose, for my rusty old ways of doing things.

That doesn't mean I'm likely to throw this site out and build something from the ground up; I wish I could, but that's just not a thing I have time for anymore. Like it or not, services like Squarespace make it possible for me to easily do something that resembles the thing I loved—clicking together templates to make a web site is not the same as writing all the lines of HTML, but the end result isn't terribly far off—and if they didn't, I wouldn't have the time to do it myself. That's the real problem, I suppose. The sheer lack of time to indulge all the whims I wish I could. 

I suppose I'm also thinking about this because of a few links that Jason Kottke shared recently, about how the bottom has dropped out of the community of independent creators who once shaped this Internet. They're fascinating and sad reads, and I recommend them if you're like me, and you miss the days when you owned a corner of the Internet, and mowed the lawn there and painted the walls the color you wanted, and et cetera, et cetera, rant, rant, sigh.

Oh, nostalgia. You're so inconvenient.  

Living in the margins

Scenes from my office