The Visible Housing Timeline

I saw an article about open space preservation efforts in Newport Beach, and decided to look up the area on maps’ satellite view. Looking around nearby areas in Newport, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Tustin, Orange, etc, I realized: the timeline of residential development in central Orange County is actually visible.

  • Newer neighborhoods have bigger houses than older ones.
  • Older neighborhoods have varied muted colored roofs. Newer ones are almost all red tile.
  • With some exceptions, older areas were built on flatter land & newer areas have crept into the hills, so grids are mostly older. The one newer area that’s flat-and-grid is all red tile roofs.

I don’t know how well it tracks for other areas. I’m less familiar with southern Orange County, for instance, and areas from Santa Ana northward into the LA Basin are much flatter and were largely built-up by the time I started paying attention.

Online Permanence: Host Your Own or Use a Service?

Yahoo Groups is shutting down, taking years’ worth of users’ writing and discussions with it. It’s the latest reminder that if you don’t host it yourself, your stuff is at the mercy of someone else’s business decisions. Or whims.

And yet…

My old blog posts are full of dead links to sites where people were hosting their own stuff, but it’s gone now. I’m sure some was taken down deliberately, but I’m sure there’s also a lot that was lost because they couldn’t maintain it.

Self-hosting isn’t just a matter of knowledge. It’s a matter of time. It’s a matter of being able to update things that need to be changed (like TLS certs or software). And there are ongoing costs: Domain name registration. Hosting service, if you’re using a hosting provider. Bandwidth if you’re using your own server.

And if for some reason you can’t keep those ongoing costs going, guess what? Your stuff goes offline. But you’re still on Facebook!

There’s a character in Les Misérables, Pere Mabeuf, who gets left out of most adaptations. He’s an old man who, for a time, eked out a living from a book he’d published years earlier. Eventually he’s so strapped for cash that he has to sell the printing plates, so even if someone wanted to buy a print run, he couldn’t do it. Essentially, he was self-hosting his work until he couldn’t afford to anymore.

Imagine one of these scenarios:

  • You’ve got some nice photo gallery or CMS, and you can afford the storage and bandwidth…and then financial trouble hits.
  • You have a site for a hobby that you don’t keep up with anymore. You don’t mind leaving it online, but it gets to be a pain to keep going, and starts feeling like it’s not worth the effort.
  • You die, and your family has to decide how long to leave the FreedomBox plugged into the network.

On one hand, a social network site might close down like Google+, purge accounts like Tumblr, change pricing drastically like Flickr, lock down access like Instagram or Photobucket, change their algorithms for what people see like Facebook… On the other, you can keep using a service like Mastodon or Twitter or Facebook even if you lose the resources to maintain your software, your VPS, your internet connection that allows incoming HTTPS, etc.

The trade-off is not just convenience vs. control. It’s host your own stuff to protect it from the whims and misfortune of (and exploitation by) third-party services. Or use the cheap/free third-party services to protect your stuff from your own misfortune.

I still think, on balance, it’s better to host your own online presence if you can, at least the parts you want to be long-term. Have your conversations where other people are, and put your art or work somewhere you control. But as a backup, I think every CMS should incorporate an “Export to static site” feature*. That way, you (or your next of kin) can quickly produce a fully-functional static site to toss on cheap shared hosting as an archive.

*You can use wget -m in a pinch, but you probably also want to remove things like comment forms in the process.

SnorLAX

A Snorlax from Pokemon Go superimposed on the road in front of a giant free-standing LAX sign.

The kid watched the Snorlax episode of the original Pokémon cartoon around the same time I managed to catch one in Pokémon Go, and we had a conversation about text-to-speech on GPS navigation getting tripped up and telling me to take an exit “toward Lax Airport.”

Oh, and something I didn’t mention when I posted this on Pixelfed earlier: The sign is a Pokémon Go gym. So of course I claimed it!

For about an hour. 🤷‍♂️