14 May 2021
Adam Jesionowski
Appropriate Digital Technology

In dozens of different ways, varying with local conditions and resources, people in the appropriate tech movement proved that it was possible to live sustainably, and even comfortably, on a small fraction of the energy and resources most middle-class people in the industrial world thought they needed to sustain their lives. 1

Appropriate Digital Technology reduces the massive waste of attention that defines our modern software and its construction. We must reduce attention held by tech for the health of our users if nothing else!

The unnecessary complexity of the modern web development toolchain has helped lead us to this place. I don’t think I need to convince anyone of this statement. It’s the horror-in-the-room.

In my opinion the way to cut this tangled knot is to simply serve static pages. Interactivity is still possible: templates can be regenerated in response to POSTs to the backend or at intervals if needed (there’s historical precedence for doing this and scaling as imageboards operated this way).

This journal’s software is my first example of appropriate digital technology. Creating a post in this journal is a matter of creating a new Markdown file with the appropriate metadata. That markdown file is converted to HTML with pandoc. A Rust script reads this metadata and renders an upper and lower template to surround the post. The index page is generated with all the metadata. All in all 180 LoC of Rust.

The styling and layout on this page are all “hand-coded”, I didn’t generate anything or use online templates. As a result not only is the source tiny and easy to understand, but my layout is sparse of the attention grabbers that other websites rely on.

What is Appropriate Digital Technology to me may not be appropriate for someone else. Each technologist must select a set of tools appropriate to their skills. What each of us can do is make the experience of the user free of the attention sucker of ads and other types of pornography.

  1. John Michael Greer, Green Wizardry

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