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The sea effaces the wakes of all boats, big and small, floating or sinking.
(--Hans Blumenberg, Shipwreck with Spectator:
Paradigm of a Metaphor for Experience
, pp.58-9)
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[ Where is AOL man going? Where are you going? ]
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What is the purpose, use and value of this website?

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Over a period of almost 3 more than 9 years, I (BMcC) have put well over 1,000 3,000 hours into working on this website. To what purpose and use? What value has accrued from the effort? I think these are important questions to ask about anything one does. From a personal perspective, it seems especially important to ask these questions about things into which one puts a substantial number of the hours of one's always too-short lifetime. From a societal perspective, it seems especially important to ask these questions about hi tech activities, since a key purpose and outcome of technological development ("progress") should be to free up persons' time, not to use it up.

These questions started to "bother" me for the easy-to guess-reason that I began having doubts about the value of having put so much time into this activity. Especially: Doubts about the value of continuing to put more time into it. Are there ways I can make doing this worthwhile: more worthwhile than the other things which thus do not get done (reading -- serious engagement with books -- is one activity from which I find working on this website takes time away)? Are there ways I can continue to get value out of the results of the time I have already put in? What can I do to feel with good warrant that the time has been well spent -- that I have not just "put", but worthily invested my time developing and continuing further to develop (and maintain...) this website?

One obvious use of the text and images I have already placed here is as "added material" for email I write to persons ("For further information about [whatever], see [whatever page] on my web site..."). I also hope persons will continue to find things of value and use here, e.g., by getting "hits" on my site in response to Google, Altavista and other "search engine" queries.... That I get pleasure from the activity is a consideration, but I find I cannot fully enjoy anything that uses up significant time or other resources without producing value for others as well as for myself. --In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt noted that, for the classical Greeks, anything that was merely private was by its nature: deprived.

I have just begun to work on this page (18 Oct 98); I play [that's a typo: I meant to type: "plan", but maybe the "error" is significant...] to elaborate these thoughts over the coming months -- a process which, I hope, will unfold in dialog with others (including, yourself?) --as of 29 Mar 06, it so far has not. I hope you will check back to see how my thoughts progress, and whether they have anything to say to others (perhaps including to yourself?)[ Email me! ]

Curiously, as of late March 2006, I have unexpectedly come to feel that this website is finally "complete", after unexpectedly receiving a picture of the IBM "How to Stuff a Wild Duck" poster, which I had been looking for -- for years. Adding that one item seems to have brought a sense of closure to the site. Lots of stuff can still be added, but, after adding the "wild duck", I feel that it's "basically" a complete whole (mature?). Getting the "wild duck" was a big -- and entirely unanticipated after so many years of not finding the poster -- step[ See me take a step! ] in this work, a big "piece of the puzzle"....

[ Remember, reflect, renew.... ]One thing to note: I rarely delete anything from this website. Thus there are things here that are outdated, and which I would not do the same way if I was re-doing afresh. Perhaps it is conceited, but I consider these "fossils" to be archeological sedimentation. In that way they may have value other than as directly addressing [failing to address...] present concerns. --As for starting afresh, I think the only way this site has grown so large -- and hopefully and far more importantly: so deep --, is that I did not undertake to make anything so big, and thus I was not discouraged from making small steps that have turned out in retrospect to be steps in[ See me take a step! ] such a long journey. [ Crescit eundo.... ]Crescit eundo.

Your thoughts? [ Email me! ]

Read ideas about good web design.
Go/Return to my aphorisms page.
Go/Return to tech notes page.
What's new on this website?
Go/Return  to site map.
Go/Return  to website Table of Contents.
Go/Return  to Brad McCormick's home page.
See  BMcC home page (Also: Site map...) as it appeared in July 1997.
[ ] [ Go to Site Map! ] [ ] [ Go to website Table of Contents! ] [ ] [ Go home! (BMcC website Home page!) ] [ ] [ | ] [ ] [ Click me to visit website Icon Gallery! ] [ ]
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Copyright © 1998-2005 Brad McCormick, Ed.D.
bradmcc@cloud9.net [ Email me! ]
17 April 200CE (2006-04-17 ISO 8601)
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Some other themes I have used this website to explore:
1.Strategies for effective "hypertext navigation". (My Site Map, my table of contents page, and the "apparatus" at the bottom of each page, are some things I have tried and which seem to work fairly well...). Please see my Website design criteria page for more details.
2. [ Go to lecture about using PDAs as personal knowledge repositories! ]Using "the net" as an enhanced "notebook", to accumulate items of interest for future reference and further elaboration. On a day-to-day basis, this has worked fairly well, but the viability of personal websites as a new and better kind of personal library + archive (etc.) seems dubious (see, e.g., below).
Some concerns arising from my experience working on this website:
1.The "entropy" of website technologies. E.g.: a Java applet that works today will probably not work a year from now, between new releases of Java itself and new releases of web browsers. Moral: Avoid technologies that do appealing things but which will likely require lots of work just to maintain (not to enhance!). Unlike printed text, it may be almost impossible to write web pages that will be readable for as long as the human language their content is written in, if, e.g., HTML 4.0, with its substitution of style sheets for style attributes in element tags, ever substantively replaces HTML 3.2....
2.[ Learn about SGML! ]The "entropy" of links to other websites (i.e., the fragility of access to whatever one feels has value "on the web"). SoftQuad Corporation's divestiture of its Panorama SGML web browser product line was my worst "hit" for 1998. Moral: Analogous to item #1 -- although, one can sometimes "squirrel away" copies of link targets, and substitute a link to one's personal [pirated?] copy when the original disappears. The preservation of online knowledge is going to be a serious world cultural problem (unless nothing of lasting value is conveniently accessible only online) -- See Quote #229 for more about "a world in which documentation and verification melt into air".
3.The "flakiness" of web browsers. Items: (1) The Opera browser advertises itself as being HTML 3.2 compliant, but an early version failed to render at least one of my HTML 3.2 validated web pages in a reasonable (I won't speak of "correct" or, a fortiori: "canonical" -- whatever that might mean...) way. (Note: Opera 3.60 works much better!) Also, it seems impossible to get cell widths correct for nested tables, when (e.g.) one wants a "picture frame" effect, as in my Mouse Cartoons and Doraemon pages. (2) Netscape 4.7-4.8 cannot render my "japan fantasy" page, apparently because tables nested too deep (Special version with less table nesting does work). Page works OK with Netscape 3.04, however. Moral: You can't solidly count on anything vis-à-vis the Internet -- even though much of it works much of the time in a far more convenient way than (e.g.) printed books, so that it bears some analogy to a drug addiction?
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[ This way to the egress! ]
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