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About this Blocki

The blocki experiment

A "blocki" is a cross between a blog and a wiki. It is for all those miscellaneous thoughts one wants to share as they occur, like a blog, but keep growing on one so one wants to go back and keep them up to date, like a wiki.

I came up with the idea in 2014 and started this one as a personal experiment. I wanted to see how useful an idea it might be, and also to see how little programming code it could get away with, in the hope that it does not need a complicated back-end server like Drupal or Mediawiki to administer. I cannot find any kind of publishing server that can be set up and controlled control easily, so I decided to keep it in my own web space and build the whole thing with a text editor. In fact, for both security and simplicity I have refused to use any active programming languages at all. So it is a bit basic - no search, no visitor comments, no tag clouds, nothing that does anything in the slightest bit clever.

If you want to make a comment on anything, please follow the Contact link and send me an email. If it is useful then I will add it to the page. But I will not be accepting trivia or rants.

Navigation problems

As mentioned, the blocki navigation is rough and limits its useful size. Blogs do not really do structured navigation, they just throw some stuff at you in a hopeful kind of way and leave you to figure out what you are looking at or where to find what you want. On the other hand web sites tend to have good navigation but it all has to be hand-built. In both cases it ends up being duplicated on every single page and javascript is invariably used to make it behave smoothly. That makes most web and blog pages both bloated and open to a range of hacking techniques.

Getting away from all that means that even javascript has to be avoided, which is why I chose that route. But that does not take away the need to build the navigation carefully. That means using only static pages, coded in the HTML markup language for web content and the CSS styling language for its look and behaviour. These languages are very limited in their ability to display functional navigation widgets. I am rather pleased even to have created functional pop-up menus, though the limitations of current web standards mean that they do not behave very well.

One technique that helps hugely is to create a navigation menu as a page in its own right and then pop it up in other pages as needed. This means that I can keep the menu present on all pages but only maintain one copy of it. When I add a new page related to its subject, I just add a link to one menu and it appears everywhere. This too is usually done with javascript and complicated programming but it can be done, if rather clunkily, in HTML and CSS.

For more about the limitations of HTML and CSS, see HTML 5 Sucks. (technically, the main issue is that CSS3 does not auto-size a container to fit imported content, so all my sub-menus occupy a fixed slab of real estate. The bit you don't see is transparent, but it is still there. It messes up the main Contents page worst.) Unless and until CSS3 gets its head together, a basic blocki likle this needs to be kept small and easily manageable.

Building content

The blocki has proved great for throwing up ideas as I go along, ideas that would disappear into the past on a blog but would turn a normal web site into a mess and need constant maintenance.

Some pages, even gropus of pages, eventually mature and become more or less permanent fixtures. As such they continue to clutter up the blocki navigation and it helps to move them across to a conventional static web site. I have begun to do that with some topics such as polyhedra.

Meanwhile, what remains here is still evolving and still proving its point.

Updated 16 Mar 2019