February 1, 2015

My last post to consequently.org was in late in 2010, well over four years ago. You’d be justified in thinking that I’d abandoned the place—but you’d also be wrong. I’ve been tinkering with it behind the scenes. The software I’d been using to maintain the website has long since fallen into disrepair, so updating it meant porting everything to another content management system. At least, it would have to mean that, given that I wasn’t really keen to burn the whole thing to the ground and start again from scratch. This required time.

It didn’t require four years, but it did require an uninterrupted stretch of time to tinker with software, experiment with the design, and finally, piece everything back together.

Before getting back into all of this website business, however, I wanted to answer one question. Is the investment of time worth it? What’s the point of a personal website these days, anyway?

After all, people can find me on twitter, where you might find a brief remark or more each week. (Or you might find a virtual “advent calendar” when I’m feeling a bit more adventurous.) I occasionally post photos on Instagram, so you can see me there if you like that sort of thing. You can find (most of) my publications on Google Scholar, and you can even find instructional videos I’ve made available to the public on Vimeo. You can even join in with classes I teach (with Jen Davoren) on Coursera, and you can use philevents.org to keep track of talks I’ve given. It’s not like I’ve been inactive on the web, even though I haven’t been leaving a much of a trace here lately. Isn’t all that web presence enough?

I think it isn’t. At least, it isn’t enough for me in 2015. Let me explain why, by turning to the different sections of this site.

  • Publications: The writing section keeps track of all of my academic publications. Where I can, I archive pre- or post-publication versions of my papers, and sometimes I upload versions of papers here before submission, to get the ideas out as quickly as possible, and to get feedback. I could do that without having my own website. (Philpapers.org is a great way for people to upload draft papers in philosophy, for example.) But at your own site, you can present yourself however you see fit, and you can make it easy for people to find your work. You provide a source for aggregators to aggregate. That’s one reason to take control of your own body of work. As long as the http protocol keeps going, I can host my own work and people can find it. Google Scholar, philpapers, or journal websites can come or go. As long as people can get here, they can keep track of my work. If someone asks how to keep up with what I write, this where I’ll point them. A url I control: http://consequently.org/writing.

  • Classes: The other sections of the website were more pressing for me, though, as I thought about why it was important to have a room of one’s own on the web. I’ve been making more of my teaching resources available to the public, through Coursera and using Vimeo. While I use our campus LMS to distribute materials to my on-campus students, that’s basically walled off to non-students. I can’t point non-Melbourne students to that if I want to give them access to teaching resources, or simply to catch up on what I’ve been teaching. I’d like to have somewhere to do that. So, http://consequently.org/class will serve as a directory of all my recent and future teaching resources—at least, all of the resources I’ll be making freely available to everyone, and it can be a straightforward first port-of-call for anyone who wants to check out a class I teach, to see if it interests them. Teaching is a very important part of what I do, and I’m happy to spread this material far and wide if it will help others. I think it will help me, too: the more opportunities for feedback on teaching materials I get, the better.

  • Presentations: The same holds for talks I give. I’d like there to be a simple, stable URL for each talk, whether it’s a research talk, or a different kind of presentation. Sometimes I’ll put materials from talks online, and sometimes I won’t. But in any case, I want to have an archive of recent and upcoming talks.

  • News: Of course, there’s also the news or blog section of the website, which can be the home for not-academic pieces of writing which don’t fit well into 140 character chunks, and which don’t find a place in more considered pieces… These are pieces of writing like this very discussion. While some find places like Medium a suitable home for longer-than-twitter online writing, I’m fond of people’s own websites, and I’m itching to get back into it, with some occasional writing of my own, to supplement more considered academic pieces.

So, that’s the why of my return to this site.

Let’s end with the how. The short answer is what you see in the footer of the website (as I write this). Hugo is the CMS that wires things together into the website. It’s fast, relatively straightforward to learn if you’re used to command-line tools, and can it cope with the not-completely-straightforward taxonomy of my site. Hugo seems to be under active development by its founder Steve Francia together with an active community of users and developers. It looks like it’ll be around for a while.

I hand-coded the HTML (designing it to be relatively friendly for small-screen devices) using the Kube Web Framework from Imperavi. (Please let me know if you see any website design bugs.) The main body and header font is Alegreya, a gorgeous font designed by Juan Pablo del Peral for the Argentinian Type Foundry Huerta Tipográfica. It’s hosted on Google Fonts. Apply liberal doses of caffeine and Bruce Cockburn, a few late nights’ worth of coding, and you get the website you have before you. I hope you like it. Please get back to me, by replying to @consequently on Twitter, or by email, if you have any feedback.

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I’m Greg Restall, and this is my personal website. I teach philosophy and logic as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. ¶ Start at the home page of this site—a compendium of recent additions around here—and go from there to learn more about who I am and what I do. ¶ This is my personal site on the web. Nothing here is in any way endorsed by the University of Melbourne.



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