history

Business decisions

I’ve made more changes to this site in the past month than I think I made in the first couple years of having a Squarespace account. I’ve delved into more features, and signed up for more services than I ever anticipated needing to run a website. And hopefully it’s all better because of it.

Since this is my home on the internet, I’m allowed to change it up as I see fit. It’s great! Everyone should have this kind of space to play.

Here’s kind of a breakdown of the thought process and evolution of the site (as best as I can remember it):

  • I started with the idea of a technology blog: “Black Rectangle” - so named because it seemed like technology was always about looking at various black rectangles.

  • It was also, for a time, a professional site for me to share my expertise in technology support. I fancied myself something of a Leo Laporte (albeit less creepy and passive-aggressive).

  • I tried to turn it into something of a more literary site. I loved science fiction and speculative fiction, so there used to be a fiction section here. For a while I fancied splitting the site into two main directories: non-fiction, aka “black” and fiction, aka “rectangles” (I thought I was so clever). That’s why this blog is still ~/black in the site’s directory structure. NEAT

    • Part of the literary shift led to my fascination with Nanowrimo and the creation of the podcast Nanowripod. It did well and got a good amount of attention. It still pulls in listeners who apparently are perpetually discovering that I’m more interested in creating a podcast than writing anything decent. However, there was a lot of learning on that show and I have no intention of taking it down. I think that creators should keep something of a record available of the internet at times and spaces since we’re otherwise really bad at archiving at the internet (no offense to Archive.org).

  • Then came the dark ages. The site lay dormant, basically. Every so often I would post something, this is where the “dispatches” start to appear for at least a few months. They were infrequent but were mainly a distillation of all of the Youtube videos I’d been watching

  • And then, I decided to make this more of a business. I’ve been working on my photography and just doing that for a few years now and it was time to make that more of what I want to be known for. Which is what lead to the changes that you see today. Less junk cluttering up the sidebar. More of a clear name and purpose… stuff that I think a casual stranger would more easily understand.

I think my online identity is still a bit cluttered. I love aliases, so here’s kind of a breakdown:

This site now resides at mrbenalexander.com - a “vanity” domain I’ve had for a long time. blackrectangle.net will still work- but I can’t say for how long as i’m debating no longer paying for that domain.

You can also get to the store section as verygood.photography. It’s kind of a spin on Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation’s business called “Very Good Building” contractor company.

I also have the handle @30ghosts on twitter, which is my “professional” spot there. It may be a bit too cool for me but I like that it’s short, rolls off the tongue, and doesn’t feel as clunky as every other “soandsophoto”. I’ve tried to keep it consistent with some of my other photo services like Ello.

Why a store?

Because I think people should fill their lives with art they like and I know at least a couple people that have bought my stuff and liked it. The overhead is manageable at this point in my life and it pushes me to have a finished product to share with others.

I also have goals of building my photo business for portraits and other candid/lifestyle shoots and I would like to upgrade my equipment before the end of the decade. (Did you see that little Ko-fi button up near the top of this page? hint hint.)

Also, I know it’s kind of silly to say this from behind a Squarespace page, but it’s easier to have this setup than it is to mess around with a Patreon and a redbubble and have them suck some ridiculous percentage from each transaction. Who owns and manages your “stuff” (all the combined outwork, not just your primary media) can seriously affect your bottom line.

So that’s why this space is the way it is now. For anyone who has followed, subscribed for these years, thank you thank you thank you.

Elusive articles

I was hanging out with my buddy Jim a few weeks ago and I told him about an old magazine article that had stuck with me for over a decade. It was in a Canadian magazine called Shift which was a tiny competitor to Wired. I really liked it as it seemed focused less on the industry that was making websites and more about the culture and subgroups that were using technology.

Needless to say, it went under many years ago. But the main article that had stuck with me was this imagined interviewed between the author of the piece and Pac-man. The premise was that Pac-man was now a has-been. Similar in premise to Bojack Horseman.

At the time it had opened my teenage eyes to creative writing that tackled something that was real (Pac-man's cultural impact on entertainment and videogames) in a high concept way.

I cherished that mag for many years, keeping it safe and fairly un-damaged in my room. Then I gave it to my girlfriend in college ("former girlfriend;" we went in for the long haul) so she could use it for some of her collages. For whatever reason I hadn't tried to save the articles from it. Stupid past Ben.

Now this issue is my white whale. The year 2000 was not exactly the dark ages. But there are a few things compounding the *ahem* issue of finding anything from that magazine.

  1. "Shift" is not particularly SEO friendly. There is another, unrelated magazine with that name in Japan.
  2. When I've done some searches it pulls up car magazines. Another dead end.
  3. Of course, at the time they kept a lot of articles print-only and weren't around for more than a few years so there isn't an archive of their old articles.

I was able to determine the specific issue from an image description.

The issue in question featured Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons on the cover. That showed up as the January/February 2000 issue. Awesome.

Using that information I headed over to Archive.org to do some more digging. Sadly, the archive record is pretty spotty for early 2000s Canadian technology magazines, so I had to make do with coming this close to the remembered awesomeness.

Behold. WWW dot SHIFT dot COM circa 2000. There isn't a cache of the exact months that the January issue was current, so it shows up only as a past article. Shame on Shift for not even including a byline on the one article that most needs it, it also had illustrations which probably deserved a credit. Many of the links are still clickable but they just lead to error messages that there's nothing cached. So much for "living in digital culture".

I'm so close and still so far removed. It's slightly more than a memory and I'm pretty sure no one else is seeking this stuff out. But it's interesting to dig around in that middle age between when we didn't record anything online to keeping every minute detail. Before the internet "vacuum of data" was on full blast sucking up everything. All this stuff that is frozen at that moment but still inaccessible.