Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

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hermit
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Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by hermit »

I have noticed the indie web/smol web/digital gardening/et al. movement lately bringing a new audience of people to web design/development & a refocusing on handmade websites. I enjoy seeing this a lot, even if I don't personally enjoy the aesthetic a lot (so sorry!). I can't help but notice, however, that so many of these websites and their providers are static only. Which certainly makes sense, from the threat perspective - security is difficult, especially when people are learning and breaking things, and leaving them vulnerable in ways they may not be aware; not to mention the particulars one may want in their configuration, making a one-size-fits-all approach like neocities a challenge. I recall free hosts of old similarly offered only static content hosting. I have been ruminating about this for some time and it would be pretty cool to have a dynamic web-hosting playground.

I would really love to see more dynamic cgi-bin, perl, php kind of dynamic server-side scripting web pages. NodeJS and similar frameworks have a certain bulkiness that i feel is opposite to the kind of tailor-made small websites that are common around these circles. What I want more of is very handmade, small personal libraries - maybe throw in Composer for php devs just to make includes easier, but probably not Laravel or anything like that. Still HTML, still small web - just not static.

Is anyone around here interested in making handcrafted dynamic backends? Have any of you experimented with server-side programming on your webpages? What kinds of things would you like to build? Do you have anything you'd like to show off?
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by glacial_pace »

i think the neocities sites that are popping up are really cool - i agree, i don't love a lot of the designs but my first personal site was pretty shit too.

i think eventually, it would be cool to see all the neocities people graduate to dynamic content. especially now that a lot of cloud providers have one-click install "apps" for things like wordpress, minecraft, plesk, etc. like Linode for example has so many:

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i will speak as someone who just spent a year building a site from scratch that relies on a Python/MySQL backend and server-side renders the front-end with NodeJS: https://basementcommunity.com

But the issue is that it's time consuming and i think there needs to be a really good understanding of how websites work before people are ready to move from something like neocities. I will say i made a lot of crap before i made this site. a lot of failed and bad websites crawled so this site could run.

i think neocities is going to do a lot of good for people and eventually some people will get to the point where they're making really creative stuff
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by glacial_pace »

and also FWIW, there definitely are people who are still making some cool fringe dynamic content. this site we're posting on for example and https://forum.melonland.net, this poster's art site: https://nighten.fr/ to name just a few

(though i get they're not handbuilt, but a step up from the neocities static sites)
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by sixeyes »

hermit wrote: Mon Jan 30, 2023 11:05 pm Is anyone around here interested in making handcrafted dynamic backends? Have any of you experimented with server-side programming on your webpages? What kinds of things would you like to build? Do you have anything you'd like to show off?
I used to do this a lot before (out of a mix of curiosity, pride, and ignorance about alternatives). Writing the system for the website would take more time/energy than making the content 😅 it started out with wanting some way of not having to copy paste the same navbar for each file, ended out with writing forum software (surprisingly functional for having no formal education. I'm sure unmaintainable - but functional!). And now i'm writing static HTML as a break from all that. There's no navbar on my site anymore.

(This page of mine is the corpse of some PHP forum thing i made way back - i mean the PHP is bleeding out, it's completely nonfunctional obviously. I've edited the page a little to write about plants (some idea about "rebuilding in the ruins of the old" idk idk. lost interest in plants pretty quickly))

In any case, i've thought similar things about interactivity. Something "simple" like the editable banner on top of Gieskes' site goes a long way i think. As a first step, this weekend i started to implement some kind of guestbook/chat backend - we'll see how that goes and where i actually want to use it.
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by Cobra! »

Honestly, I think part of the charm of spaces like Neocities is that it doesn't have dynamic content. I feel like dynamic content and "apps" is an aspect of the modern web, something I want to get away from. I don't know what adding dynamic content would even add.

I feel like I can do just about everything I want with Javascript and CSS.
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by jshtab »

There's actually the best of both worlds: It's called Jamstack, with a focus on pre-generated websites that use XHR/Fetch to communicate with an API that provides dynamic content.

It's cheaper than say, PHP or Flask, because there is nothing attempting to render HTML and all the associated complexity. When your dynamic content is 300 bytes of JSON instead of 45kB of HTML, you can afford to run on extremely cheap cloud housting, which can cost literal pennies compared to the $5 to $10 a month for a full virtual machine or the hundreds of dollars for an actual colocation.

Pages can progressively gain interactive functionality without having to jump to a beast like HTTPd/CGI+PHP or NGINX/mod_wsgi+gunicorn, which require full web servers that are constantly running.
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by loaf »

hermit wrote: Mon Jan 30, 2023 11:05 pm Is anyone around here interested in making handcrafted dynamic backends? Have any of you experimented with server-side programming on your webpages? What kinds of things would you like to build?

[...] security is difficult, especially when people are learning and breaking things, and leaving them vulnerable in ways they may not be aware
I'm a beginner when it comes to web programming, & I've been thinking of experimenting with more dynamic content, but this is the exact factor that makes me trepidatious. I'd probably start by making a custom guestbook, though in the long run making a sort of site where users can explore/unlock different pages & have that info saved would be neat. (theoretically a web game something like https://www.improbableisland.com/ or https://www.fallenlondon.com, but on a smaller scale)

Does anyone have any guides for beginners messing around to avoid security issues or maybe a checklist of vulnerabilities to avoid?
jshtab wrote: Wed Feb 01, 2023 1:23 pm There's actually the best of both worlds: It's called Jamstack, with a focus on pre-generated websites that use XHR/Fetch to communicate with an API that provides dynamic content.
This actually sounds perfect for my needs right now. Do you happen to have any suggestions for which CMS to use?
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by jshtab »

loaf wrote: Thu Feb 02, 2023 11:14 pm This actually sounds perfect for my needs right now. Do you happen to have any suggestions for which CMS to use?
I've had good experiences with hugo, though it is barely a CMS- it's more accurate to call it a static site generator, even if it has some facilities for content management. It's uses plain text files and a program that builds html to put on your server. I've used Firebase Cloud Functions for my dynamic content on hugo, with some JavaScript inserted when needed.

The jamstack website has a list. Many options are developer-oriented, some are difficult to set up. Some focus on creating the API for your static site, some focus on the content. It's really down to what you need, and what you can do.
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by hermit »

loaf wrote: Thu Feb 02, 2023 11:14 pm Does anyone have any guides for beginners messing around to avoid security issues or maybe a checklist of vulnerabilities to avoid?
i am of the opinion that the best way is to simply start making things. (hopefully) nothing that you start with is going to be mission-critical identity-theft targets. there are so many websites, and so many that store actual end-user data in a very bad way that makes a learning-project of a guestbook/blog/whatever not worth the effort. most attacks are on vulnerabilities in older versions of eg. wordpress for instance. even the big corporations with teams of people to prevent these things get attacked and exposed. security is an arms race, and as such any sufficiently motivated individual will be persistent enough to keep trying, and may eventually get in. personally, it hasn't knowingly happened to me - in around 15 years of web experience, aside from wordpress exploits.

though, i do have a few things i would say are must-do:
  • do not store plain-text passwords. you'd think this is an obvious one, but i see this probably once a year where some company or service sends me my password. why. Passwords should be salted and hashed. a hash is like a one-way street. you put a string of text (eg., a password) in, you get a scrambled, randomized, hopefully unreversible string back. This is the value you compare the user's input to in order to authenticate them. But wait... if every one is using the same algorithm to hash passwords, and enough people use an insecure password like "Password123", couldn't you figure out which users have the same passwords, and even generate hashes for the most common passwords? Yes! This is called a "rainbow table". this is why we "salt" our passwords. a password salt is like a little mustard on the password hotdog. You add a known, unique string of random characters to the user password input before it is saved so that the hashes are different. Then, even if two users have the same password, the hashes would be completely different, as long as the salt strings are also different.
  • do not trust any input from end users. and largely by this i mean, if you're presenting content as HTML from an end user, make sure it does not allow arbitrary HTML. <script> tag injection in particular is the bad guy here.
  • on the last point, always parameterize your queries. be mindful of the input accepted from end users. for instance, don't add in a variable directly to a query string, lest you end up in a bobby tables situation
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by nymphaeaphoo »

My site is mostly static with a couple cgi scripts sprinkled in.

I see it the same way as I see javascript, only using it when its necessary and is the point of the page.

I've also kept it as simple as possible, one way of doing this is making all my stuff work without the need to sign up with an account, this makes it hard to bloat up and also lowers my threat model as only trivial data is stored.
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by Rynn »

hermit wrote: Mon Jan 30, 2023 11:05 pm I have noticed the indie web/smol web/digital gardening/et al. movement lately bringing a new audience of people to web design/development & a refocusing on handmade websites. I enjoy seeing this a lot, even if I don't personally enjoy the aesthetic a lot (so sorry!). I can't help but notice, however, that so many of these websites and their providers are static only.
I think it's a simple explanation - many of the new folks are fleeing a web that has by and large been ruined by a combination of factors of which dynamic content plays a leading role. It makes sense that there would be less desire to go that route.
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by yequari »

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Last edited by yequari on Wed Apr 05, 2023 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by Rynn »

yequari wrote: Wed Feb 08, 2023 5:47 pm I do understand this sentiment, dynamic content on the modern web usually just means ads. Ignoring ads though, to me, dynamic content is what makes the web interesting and fun. It takes full advantage of the Internet being a bunch of connected computers.
Yes, but it's not just ads. It's also serving a never ending stream of content in the hopes of gathering as much of your attention as they can. Think doomscrolling in Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, etc. Time is a very precious resource, and they've nearly perfected the art of stealing as much of it as they reasonably can from.
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by hermit »

i'm realizing "dynamic" is a loaded term, all it means is non-static HTML and serverside pre-processing holy smokes!

here's some examples of what i consider "dynamic small web":

Advance Wars By Web: https://awbw.amarriner.com/
advance wars, in the browser. turn-based strategy game delivered by PHP and HTML tables.

Space Email: https://space.galaxybuster.net/
write & receive anonymous messages, kind of like a time capsule. built in PHP and uses AJAX to facilitate server request and response.

Perlmonks.org: https://perlmonks.org/
custom forum-like software, likely written in perl, cgi-bin style. Support and discussion for perl programming

wiby.me: https://wiby.me/
this one comes up a lot around here, i think. Search engine for old-style websites.

---

None of these sites are doom-scrolling, endless content (except maybe space email, though that seems like a side effect rather than a design feature), data mining pages. They are simply websites that interact with your inputs in a persistent, non-clientside manner.
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by Starfia »

hermit wrote: Thu Feb 09, 2023 10:15 pm i'm realizing "dynamic" is a loaded term, all it means is non-static HTML and serverside pre-processing holy smokes!
That's what I was thinking about "dynamic" as a word choice – I'd say web sites that use appreciable JavaScript or even CSS animations are reasonably, and typically, called dynamic. ("Involving server-side programming" clears up that ambiguity, though.)

I read your original post a few days ago and empathized. The free-to-join "personal web," even in its modern mini-renaissance forms, seems to involve inviting and teaching newcomers to learn HTML and CSS, then possibly JavaScript, then pretty much stops. If you want to store something like a program on a server that actually runs and influences the files the browser gets back, the difficulty and financial investment tend to ramp right up. It's easy enough to envision something like a Neocities that somehow includes an authorable back end, so that the introductory languages become HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP or something like it. But I haven't run into anything that combines that accessibly with the spirit of a friendly and free place to plant a flag.

Also, I feel like what JavaScript and browsers can do without servers these days is under-appreciated. To save the user's place in a text adventure or a little drawing app? You can do that with Web Storage now, and so on. (Again, definitely within the perceived meaning of "dynamic.")
hermit wrote: Mon Jan 30, 2023 11:05 pm NodeJS and similar frameworks have a certain bulkiness that i feel is opposite to the kind of tailor-made small websites that are common around these circles.
I only just begun to understand Node while experimenting with the possibility of self-hosting, and now that I'm getting it, I have to say, it feels awfully lightweight to me. To replace Apache and PHP, with their mountains of alien-looking config files and challenges to learn whole additional syntaxes just to program on a server? And Node running with almost no system resources when it's idle? Heck, I'm all in for the moment.
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by foxbite »

i love working on more dynamic pages on my site!! I'm slowly (emphasis on slowly - i have a full-time job so i'm not able to work on my site as much as i want to) addin' php-based pages / elements whenever i have ideas of what to execute.

most recently - added a little comments area to my other (non-main) domain that's currently a lil shrine to a series i like (very much in progress). it's... definitely not spam proof, still need to add that, but i'm really not worried about targeting in that regard. obscurity on the web is great for that :P

re: why there's not more "dynamic" pages, in my opinion, is probably the fact that it has a higher barrier to entry. someone wanting to get started w php on a server/site, for example, needs to have some ability to pay for hosting (or host it themselves, which has even more of a knowledge barrier to entry) it is intimidating, that's for sure

also, seconding what a few people have said re: for people wanting to get started with more dynamic websites: the best way is to just start making something :P
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by fLaMEd »

Is a static website, that builds its content from a range of data files at build time dynamic?
Is a static website, that uses webhooks to rebuild the site when one of those data files is updated dynamic?
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by RogerMexico »

Building server-side applications is my day job.

I hadn’t considered cgi-bin as an alternative to static generators or dynamic frameworks. They were already long out of fashion when I started building for the web in 2003.

It’s one of those things where if you know what you’re doing it’s perfectly safe, but beginners and hobbyists could very easily open themselves up to issues, as was absolutely the case in the 90s and 00s.

It’s not terribly efficient either. The OS needs to fork a new process on every request. There are alternatives to big batteries included frameworks like the rack/plack/jack/etc family that can serve dynamic content in a smaller package.

I think we should probably just let cgi go gently into that good night.
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email forms

Post by sixeyes »

this is probably not "dynamic" per se.... i've been thinking i want a comment section or similar on some pages, but it seems i don't have the time to implement some backend for this, plus i'm wary of auto-publishing user comments. then it struck me, what about having one of those HTML forms that post to your email address? and then let gmail or whomever do the spam filtering.

does sending emails from PHP still mostly work or is this a dead end..?

i'm thinking i could do something like tumblr asks or whatever where i can dedicate some time to the messages i actually wanna publish and then do it manually. and in that way it becomes interactive.
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Re: Dynamic Small ("smol") Web

Post by rina »

glacial_pace wrote: Mon Jan 30, 2023 11:22 pm
i think neocities is going to do a lot of good for people and eventually some people will get to the point where they're making really creative stuff
i find neocities pretty limiting i like having my own servers even tho my website isn't very dynamic.

but i have custom written guestbook and blog system, and "last song listened to"is calling on last.fm's api i don't like relying on 3rd party services. the only reason my website should ever go down is if/when i cant afford to pay for hosting and domains and NOT because a website that hosted iframe that made my website dynamic went down

however i don't see myself as a developed nor do i think this is something i could do professionally
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