Crafting a Home on the Web

Webpage for Kyle Knapp illustration and design with links and illustration.
My simple handmade website

Over the last week or two I designed and coded a simple webpage containing links to my various websites, social media accounts, and projects. There are many services that let you make pages just like this quickly and easily, but I chose to do it the hard way.

Having dabbled over the years with learning HTML and CSS, I knew this was something I could do, and with a desire to learn new skills and retain ownership and control of my home online I figured this was also something I should do.

I was partially inspired by a blog post by Robin Sloan where he compares creating an app for just his family to use to making a home-cooked meal. As someone who would describe both his coding and cooking abilities as “okay I guess,” this analogy struck a cord.

I have always been interested in the possibilities of coding, and have dipped my toes in the water a handful of times, but have never really finished project that has been put out into the world for others to see and use.

My experience with programming has always involved coming upon a problem whose solution refuses to be identified. I can pinpoint what a problem is, even find out what solution is supposed to fix it, but after implementing it something will still be wrong that I just can’t figure out. And usually this is where I stop.

While making this simple page, the first 90% of the work was finished within an hour or two, while the last 10% took me several hours over a few days to figure out and eventually resolve. There were several times when I almost resorted to texting one of my web developer friends to help me out, but I pressed on and eventually figured things out on my own. It was hard, but I think pushing through was worth it.

Why go through all this trouble? First and foremost is just because it’s fun to learn how to make new things, and it feels really good to say I made this webpage all by myself. Beyond that, I have an intense interest in independent media and culture of all kinds, including on the web. Since everyone has been packed into the few remaining huge social media sites, it feels important to push back on that a little by creating a home for myself and my art on the internet that I control, or as Austin Kleon would put it, “own your turf.”

So if you’d like to see what I’ve been up to, come visit knapp.studio.

An Ear to the Unknown

I distinctly remember a time in high school, one weekend night just at home hanging out in my room. I had on the great Cleveland-area college radio station WRUW, operating out of Case Western Reserve University, and they were playing indie music, a genre I had never heard of at the time. In that hour a whole new world opened up to me, and without too much exaggeration I would say it changed my life.

Over the years I’ve collected music in almost every way possible. While still in high school I would buy CDs, but more often check them out of the library to rip onto my computer. I used early file sharing software such as Limewire, Kazaa, and Soulseek. In college I would download albums directly from independent music blogs. Now, almost anything can be streamed directly from Spotify or Youtube, or downloaded from Bandcamp.

At a time when new music is served up via algorithmic playlists on Spotify or Youtube, it’s an exciting feeling to be in the hands of a human with a unique point of view. Over the last year or so I have made NTS.live my primary source of new music for just that reason.

When you come to the site and press play on one of the two continuous live streams broadcasting from studios all around the world, you are trusting the DJ to bring you not only something new, but something you probably never would have thought to seek out for yourself at all. Artists and even entire genres of music are ripe for discovery if you place your trust in someone else to pick them out for you.

One thing that internet radio offers which is genuinely hard to find these days is mystery. Hearing something that can’t immediately be identified, and which you may potentially never hear again, is an experience that is getting more rare as the internet attempts to make every piece of information available as frictionlessly as possible. Maybe not everything should be readily available in seconds. Maybe having to wait, or having to tune in at just the right time, makes what you end up finding that much more special.

Here are some of my favorite episodes:

Miniature: Bruits de la Passion’s Miniature live in the studio, playing oddball house & indie rock from Pylon, Weyes Blood & more.

ONY: A moody mix of soundtrack, ambient, chopped n’ screwed, and trap.

Getting Warmer: Jen Monroe compiles a cozy mix of shoegaze, folk, and pop.

Immediate Hits: Dan Russell from Manchester’s very own trash-punks The Hipshakes steps into the NTS studio once a month for an hour long barrage of punk, DIY, garage and more.