P&B: Jennifer Devastatia del Gato


This is the 43rd edition of People and Blogs, the series where I ask interesting people to talk about themselves and their blogs. Today we have Jennifer "💕 Devastatia 💕" del Gato and her blog, devastatia.com

I think I have mentioned it before but I absolutely love her site because it's precisely everything mine isn't. My site is this super clean, super calm place, with no JS, no weirdness going on, and almost no images. Her site is a proper experience and you'll understand what I mean when you click that link. And even though the containers are incredibly different we share an appreciation for a certain type of living the web which is why I'm very grateful to have her as a guest on this series.

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Let's start from the basics: can you introduce yourself?

I was born and raised in the southern United States. I think I got a reasonably decent public education in an era just before the education system, both higher and lower, started becoming extremist indoctrination. You'll find countless Gen Xers online these days reminiscing about the things we used to do as kids. There's not much I can add to that as far as everyday life goes.

I became an avid fan of science fiction at an early age, and developed a fascination with history, science, electronics, and computers. The two latter were the same hobby back then, actually. You had to understand electronics to mess around with computers.

What's the story behind your blog?

The funny thing is that I don't really call my website a "blog" or consider myself to be a "blogger" per se. I didn't really have a plan or goal for what I wanted to do with my personal website when I started it. I only knew that the social media paradigm wasn't working for me, and I needed to do something else.

My stock in trade has long been shitposting on "free speech" forums and social media. I have a habit of getting banned from social media sites because the normies don't get my sense of humor. I'm not interested in making my opinions "advertiser-friendly," nor in virtue-signaling to censorious, self-righteous ideologues. It's popular amongst the simple-minded these days to label people as bigots on the basis of colorful remarks. In so doing, the self-appointed thought police often completely miss the point the writer was trying to make. As a feral Gen Xer, I don't have the patience to walk on eggshells around thin-skinned people. If I can't be honest and authentic, then why bother?

An essential aspect of my modus operandi is to always return to a "last known good" state when current conditions aren't yielding favorable results. I've been on the World Wide Web since 1994, and have owned personal websites before. I mean that's what everybody did when the Internet was first opened to the public. The ever-growing litany of creative constraints imposed by social media over the years more or less forced my return to the "real" Internet.

The name "Devastatia" was a nickname I made up for a cat I used to have. Audrey and her big brother Elvis liked to tear things up, as cats do, so I gave them the nicknames Dr. Destructo and his lovely assistant, Devastatia. It had a gothy ring to it, and since I'm a goth, I thought it'd make a catchy screen name.

I thought it would be funny to spoof social media "influencers" — low-talent midwits with swollen egos — so I built a sort of role-playing character around that idea. That's how Devastatia was born.

What does your creative process look like when it comes to blogging?

You've heard the expression, "The jokes write themselves," right? Well, the Internet is basically one big lolcow for those of us who can see the humor in almost anything. Most of my social commentary and shitposting is in response to things I see online.

Nearly everything I write is my own opinion and shouldn't be taken as fact. "Fact-checking" has acquired an unsavory connotation for me due to the way it's ham-handedly rammed down our throats, sans nuance or context, by ideologues in the mainstream media and on social media. When I do research something, it's usually just a quick Web search in which I choose a few links that have intriguing titles or summaries, not necessarily the "most relevant" results as decided by the search engines. Some of those links lead to fact-checking articles, but they're not typically the agenda-driven kind.

I re-read and edit the crap out of an article after I publish it, usually for hours, and sometimes for days. I'm careful not to make spelling or grammatical errors, but some occasionally slip through. I catch most of them the same day by re-reading though. Most of my editing is done to improve the flow of a passage, to add content I forgot to include in the first draft, or to express something in a more picturesque way. Sometimes I'll come up with a relevant joke hours later, and throw it in retroactively to liven the piece up.

I think the most glaring error I've made was a continuity error in one of my erotic short stories. A reader brought it to my attention months after the piece was published. A peripheral character, coincidentally named Manuel, was identified as the brother of a main character in one episode, but as his cousin in the following episode.

I write a lot about Web development because that's what interests me. I decorate my pages with irrelevant naughty pictures because I like looking at them, and my readers tell me they do too. I aim to be nerdy, funny, and sexy at the same time. I think I mostly succeed at that.

Do you have an ideal creative environment? Also do you believe the physical space influences your creativity?

I just need for it to be reasonably quiet and dark. When I started messing with computers, everything was green or amber text in a fixed-width font on a black background — which, incidentally, is why my website resembles an old school terminal. I use a dark mode browser plugin on every site I visit. Staring at a page with a white background is like staring into a flashlight. Why would anybody do such a thing?

I usually don't notice my physical surroundings at all once I get into the groove. I keep the temperature at around 77° Fahrenheit and wear as few clothes as possible, so I don't even feel the air, really.

I'm also blind in my right eye and nearsighted in the left, so I sit pretty close to the monitor. Most of the items on my desk have dark colors, so I don't really notice anything in my peripheral vision when there are no lights on nearby.

I use a 75% mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX switches, again because that's what I'm used to from the early days of home computing. I detest touch screens and keyboards with short-travel switches.

A question for the techie readers: can you run us through your tech stack?

My basic tools are Geany, a coding text editor for Linux similar to UltraEdit or Notepad++ for Windows; FileZilla, an FTP client that's ubiquitous on Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs; and Firefox. If I happen to be in the terminal and need to take a quick look at something, I'll open it in vim. I haven't used Github that much since I left the corporate world. The tools I use now are the same ones I used when I first started making personal websites years ago.

All of my sites are hosted on SiteGround. Page loads are very fast, their tech support is prompt and effective, and their "grow big" plan gives me everything I need. I don't remember where I registered my domain name. It's registered either through SiteGround or DreamHost.

I absolutely hate reading other people's code. When I worked as a professional developer, I became disenchanted with the emphasis on integrating third-party software over writing custom code. I'm not an integrator, and I'm definitely not a "coder." I'm a programmer. That's what I got into this racket to do, and now that I have full creative control, that's what I do.

With the exception of a couple of PHP packages and some code snippets borrowed from Stack Overflow and elsewhere, everything on my site is hand-coded by me. I don't use third-party frameworks or general-purpose libraries period, let alone a third-party CMS. Everything is written either specifically for its task or as a component that I can reuse for multiple similar tasks.

Given your experience, if you were to start a blog today, would you do anything differently?

I think the question presumes I have a purpose or goal in mind when I start something, which isn't necessarily the case. I'll oftentimes start working on something because I find the technology interesting, and the use case will present itself later.

That said, my current website is showing its limitations, and I'm slowly developing the next version. This is only my second single-page application (SPA), and the first in which I got everything working as expected. I've constantly added features over the past seven or eight months, and it's reached the point where it'd be easier to rewrite most of it from scratch than to keep adding onto the existing platform.

I won't change my domain name or the name of my site because it's the name I'm known by. One doesn't change a trademark that has achieved brand recognition without a good reason. Companies only do so when they get a bad reputation due to scandal. Well, I'm not overly concerned about my reputation. I mean I have a slutty online persona and write naughty stories, both by choice. Those things are fun for me, and I don't believe that'll ever change.

Financial question since the Web is obsessed with money: how much does it cost to run your blog? Is it just a cost, or does it generate some revenue? And what's your position on people monetising personal blogs?

It'd be difficult to separate the cost of running my personal site from the cost of running my other sites because they're all on a single hosting plan. Moreover, the plan includes capabilities that aren't available with the typical "basic" plan because, as somebody who compulsively tinkers with technology, I know I'll use them. I also prefer traditional .com, .net, or .org domain names when available, which tend to cost a little more than some of the newer "personal website" top-level domains.

I have three sites at the moment, and will probably build others. As of now, simple division of the total cost by the number of sites yields an average cost of about 156 USD per year. That's about what I'd pay for three domain names and individual hosting plans from the same company, and the per-site cost will decrease as I add more sites.

I don't try to monetize my site, nor make any effort to promote it in the major search engines. This is a personal project that I work on for the fun of it. The Personal Web as a community has plenty of grassroots ways to help a website gain attention — webrings, listing sites, blog carnivals, etc. — from those who are interested in personal websites.

I don't have anything against other people monetizing their blogs if they choose to do so, but it's not for me. Again, this is all for fun and "at will." I don't want to be held to other people's expectations regarding deadlines, messaging, or the type or quality of content I produce.

Time for some recommendations: any blog you think is worth checking out? And also, who do you think I should be interviewing next?

One of the most fascinating people I know on the Personal Web isn't a blogger at all. Magill, or Fritzi as she's known on the Personal Web, is a well-read 60s pop culture aficionado who, in addition to making charming little brochure sites, publishes erotic Beatles fan fiction on Archive of Our Own (AO3). Fritzi isn't a professional Web designer, but you'd never guess it because she's exceptionally talented.

And you'll definitely want to interview Sara Jaksa. Sara is a brilliant woman whose correspondence I enjoy immensely. I'd love to hear from her more frequently, but I understand that her work keeps her very busy. What I like most about Sara is that she doesn't give shallow answers, but considers things deeply before forming an opinion. It'd be interesting to read her answers to some of your questions.

Final question: is there anything you want to share with us?

I'm a blurter. Anything I want to share will most likely appear on my website the moment it wanders into my mind. I use my site the same way I'd use Twitter if I weren't banned from there. I'm always throwing things at the wall to see what'll stick.

As for projects, I'm working on a free RSS feed reader for personal website feeds called The Geekly Reader. Commercial readers making money from blogs that the authors themselves haven't monetized just doesn't sit well with me. In my view, they're the same as low-effort YouTubers whose videos are nothing but a text-to-speech program reading a Reddit thread. The days of corporations profiting from other people's free content need to end.

When I heard that 123Guestbook is shutting down in July, I started a project at Personal-Web.org to provide a replacement for static website owners who use 123Guestbook. Depending on how much utilization that service gets, I may provide other hosted widgets later.

This was the 43rd edition of People and Blogs. Hope you enjoyed this interview with Devastatia. Make sure to follow her blog (RSS) and get in touch with her if you have any questions.

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Manu's Feed

21 Jun 2024 at 12:00

On “What Money Can’t Buy”


I finished listening to the audio version of Michael Sandel’s “What Money Can’t Buy” a few days ago. Great book, I hated every second of it. The topic is very interesting but most of the concepts and examples were infuriating. The book touches on pretty much everything I hate about the current state of the world when it comes to its relationship with money and advertising. Still, was good company on a few long road trips and I love when the audiobooks are narrated by the author. Thanks for suggesting the book John!

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Manu's Feed

19 Jun 2024 at 16:40

Blocking bots


The other day I was emailing with Matthew “Starbreaker” Graybosch about his recent post titled “robots.txt: the Nuclear Option”. If you’re a regular reader of this site you know I love this kind of stuff and I especially love nuclear options when it comes to fighting silly tech.

I experimented with blocking everything in the past but this recent exchange made me want to revisit this idea. With perfect timing, Robb Knight posted “Perplexity AI Is Lying about Their User Agent” and that was all the extra motivation I needed to join the fun.

I already had a 403 in place for Mastodon because I don’t want to get a shit ton of traffic coming my way every time someone posts a link of mine but I loved Matthew’s idea of returning a 402.

So I grabbed 180 or so entries from the Dark Visitors’s agents list and set up an NGINX redirect based on those UA. Gonna be interesting to see if this has any effect on the server so I’ll write a follow-up.

I tried to leave out all the RSS fetchers because I love RSS, RSS is great and if you’re using RSS in 2024 you’re an awesome person BUT I might have inadvertently broken some RSS feed out there with this move. If you notice something not working properly let me know and I’ll fix it.

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Manu's Feed

16 Jun 2024 at 20:15

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