long mass of text - perhaps easier to read if you narrow the screen

part of an email sent to Stephen Linart, 10.6.98:

(the softopia referred to is an imaginary one)



I'm thinking of designing a website in which waiting is no more than 5 to 7 seconds at any point.

Another of my aims is, instead of offering what I call blind menus, to provide on the homepage a bird's eye view of what's to come (with road map, samples, keywords, etc.) so that you can see what you're in for without wasting a piece of your life finding out that you don't want to see it ... I'm completely turned off now from seeing any more websites that use up such big chunks of my time and leave me feeling I wished I'd not visited them ... I guess many people feel this, once they get over the novelty of websurfing.

As an experienced web designer can you give me some tips for how these things might be achieved (by an inexperienced one)? I'm willing to sacrifice any other features to get this - websites for hares not tortoises...

I'm not expecting you to spend time and effort answering this question - I'd just like to know your first reactions and if you think it's a good idea ...

2. WRITING EVENTS, imagining the presence of softopia, or imaginary software:

Today I searched for the word quicksurfing with a search engine and what a nice surprise I got!

Firstly I got only a few responses but each was wonderful - just what I was hoping for but thought was impossible:

The first site, called softopia, took only a few seconds to show me its homepage - which contained only about fifty words scattered about a kind of road map of the site.

As soon as I touched any part of it things began to happen. For instance I touched the word START which caused a window to appear. In the window were about 50 keywords from which I was invited to choose just 5 to show my interests. Then, when I touched PROCEED, the whole road map acquired more words and tiny line drawings showing where I'd find things connected with the keywords I'd selected. It also showed how long (in number of words and in minutes of reading time) it would take me to open and to read each map feature, even with a small and out-of-date computer and software.

But that wasn't all - the things to be seen on the site were not the kind of 'advertisements for myself' (borrowing the title of a book by Norman Mailer, written if I recall it aright when he was at his wit's end - perhaps he is always there, perhaps we all are, in the 'reality' of our actual thoughts and feelings?) ...
no, this website was not so much a static advertisement for someone's thoughts and past achievements - it is an invitation to share our lives with some at least of the billions of people with whom we live here on earth for brief lifetimes, and to be frank about it, this life, virtual or actual ... the maker of this website tells not of his past but gives a view of what he is doing now.

The next word after START is DIARY. This is the author's actual diary, right up to yesterday. And even today - for you can select TODAY'S PAGE on which you can see the words appearing as he writes them - at the same tempo, with pauses, deletions, and other changes happening. (Perhaps this is just a few minutes or hours out of date, a rerun of the time when he was actually writing, or perhaps it is live if you happen to log in when he updates?)

What he writes in his diary is very frank, sometimes embarrassing, but I guess that is what makes it interesting, and art (of a kind)? He writes mostly of the kinds of everyday experiences we all share, it's a kind of news column, I suppose, but of the tiniest and most human experiences, as well as his thoughts about the whole picture, his reactions to the news and the weather and anything at all that is happening.

Then there is huge section called ARCHIVE where you can quickly jump to any date and time to see what he wrote or did in the past. This appears as a time scale that is flagged where he wrote or did things that relate to the keywords you selected.

You can leave your own VISITING CARD on the homepage. When you touch those words you see a window on which your own email address (and your URL if you there is one in your signature) appears automatically and you are invited to add some live comments.

Perhaps the nicest thing about this website is that you can get invited to a web writing event (you get invited either by chance or because of what you wrote on your visiting card). These events are mini-conferences, lasting a few days or weeks, on topics chosen from the homepage and from frequently selected keywords. They consist not of people's hastiest thoughts, as in email discussion lists, but of 'considered writing' that is meant to be monitored by each writer offline before sending. In this kind of electronic 'writing event' there is a most wonderful feeling that everyone is going beyond themselves - writing and thinking things that by themselves they would never have thought of. ... which reminds me to take this offline at least until I've slept on it and spell checked it...


Well Stephen, I intended only to ask your reactions to 'quicksurfing' as I called it, but then I decided to try out 'softopia', the writing of my imagined experience of a new design before any actual software has been written. So you are the first person to see it and I am glad that your email re Found Art came just when it did and provoked me to take this tiny step forward in something I've been meaning to start for ages.

And now I'm going to quote part of your Found Art email back to you

a. So as to say why I'm sending you this 1000 words or so of unexpectedness and to know if you wish to receive more as I proceed with it.

b. To ask if I may quote your (to me) very beautiful way of introducing unsolicited email when and if I send softopia and such writings to others?

"I'm sending you this email because I've corresponded with you, received email from you, participated in some project with you, or otherwise seen your name in the context of art on the Web.

If you don't want me to send you anything like this, please let me know so I can remove you from my list."

with further good wishes

john chris

(my first name is a double one such as is common among Welsh people, especially if their family name is jones)

(c) 1999 john chris jones. You may transmit these texts to anyone for any non-commercial purpose if you include the copyright line and this sentence.