Justin Hall's personal site growing & breaking down since 1994

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USC Interactive Media Application: Creative Work Sample

For my creative work sample, I submit "Justin's Links" www.links.net, my personal web site. Started in January of 1994, it now includes over 4,700 pages: poems, short stories, essays, articles, recipes, songs, dreams, cartoons, drawings, photographs. The subject matter is primarily autobiographical; but the scope is broad. For over ten years, I've been publishing my notes, recorded experiences, and musings here.

Over that time I've experimented with web page design. For example, while I lived in Japan I posted a number of pages incorporating photographs and Japanese characters into their layouts. Recently, I've begun publishing cartoons and poems about mobile phones at mobile.links.net; these entries are built to fit the mobile phone interface where they are made and where they may readily be viewed.

Justin's Links has primarily been built by hand, using basic HTML with lots of tables, edited in Emacs (Unix), BBEdit (Macintosh) or EditPlus (PC). In February 2003, I installed the Movable Type weblogging software, and now my front page is fed by four separate Movable Type weblogs that blend seamlessly onto the face of Links.net. In addition I make use of some randomizing scripts, and increasingly I make use of CSS - style sheets. Mostly, the pages are still glued together by server side includes, a somewhat old fashioned way to share content across web sites.

The site does not feature any Flash, nor are there any explicitly interactive pages. No fancy forms or touchable widgets. But overall Links.net presents an interactive experience; it's possible to choose your way through at some length without seeing the same page twice. This is partially due to a decided lack of explicit interface - there is no true site map, little helpful navigation and barely any sense of where you are in relation to other pages. Rather, I use phrases and words embedded in the text to make connections between pages: links that are lateral and relational, as opposed to linear or hierarchical. These are primarily obvious - proper nouns and place names connect to pages on those subjects (pages both internal and external to Links.net). Some of the references are more oblique and leave a space between the link and the resulting page that could have use or meaning.

In 1994 and 1995, the site was getting around 27,000 daily readers. The numbers have cooled since then, but the site still has several thousand readers each day; many drawn by the wide-range of search results that lead into my archives.

The site has presented a number of exciting opportunities and difficult challenges: particularly balancing my passion for publishing personal experiences with the privacy concerns of my family and friends. When I began publishing online, there were relatively few readers and other writers. Now many others have joined the online publishing party. I've been fortunate to meet a great many of these people personally and virtually. I've gotten some entertaining feedback on the site, from users and from journalists and academics. Some of that feedback is available here: www.links.net/re/print/

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