Inck is an ongoing experiment in grid-based frontend development, databaseless content management, HTML5 and CSS3 techniques, whimsical layout, and the recombination of design, content and code.
I write, design, and build Inck as one project, switching between writing code and words when I feel like it, or when a change to one suggests a change to the other.
Inck’s ‘content management system’ consists of text files parsed for linebreaks and nothing else, formatted beyond that with HTML. The front page is configured with a simple list of articles, word counts for where to break them, an optional banner headline, an image embed, and CSV data to populate the sidebar, all in the file ‘a1’.
Because everything is a file, everything--content and code--is managed through a version control system, originally Subversion and now Git.
Because I have intertwined writing and coding, I've discarded the ambition of treating ‘content’ as abstract data that flows through an abstract system to reach a consumer in an abstract presentation.
Content management systems are a failed idea. ‘Content’ is a failed idea, as though the fact of two things’ being text meant they had some logical relationship. Everything on a computer can be represented as text, a string of numbers one and zero at least. But we know that most of the things on a computer, spreadsheets and photographs and songs, are different, and require different tools.
That extends to the types of text in written language. Articles, short articles, long articles, poems, dialogues, lists, quips; these are all different, and the notion that they can all be abstracted to ‘entries’ or ‘posts’ is wrong. The massive pages of custom fields and strange workarounds that build up in most serious content management interfaces are testament to this.
‘Content’ isn’t a viable candidate for abstraction. Content isn’t ‘content’. It’s writing. It’s dissertations and exposés and outlines and confessions. It has a long history that was not in fact revolutionized by the invention of the relational database.
I originally had the idea for this site after reading about William Blake’s Illuminated Books in college. He laboriously etched plates for each page. Each page contained words that were drawn into their illustration. Each page was fully integrated into itself through the process of laying it down finally in one brittle, inefficient, beautiful and wholehearted way.
I’m not saying Inck is an Illuminated Web Site. Though I would like to make one of those, I’m not yet reaching down that far, to individually acid-etched pages. I’m just reaching down about as far as ink applied to a plane of small stamps arranged perfectly just for that page. Building a website around its writing is a very different work from setting a page of words to press. But I think it’s about the same relative difference in effort from ‘managing content’ to that between, say, letterpress and lithography. (Not that I’ve lived that wistful web maker fantasy of being a pressman. Correct me in a Letter to the Editor if I’m wrong.)
In a sense I set every page. Every article I write ends up suggesting a modification to the system. This is true in content management systems, as well. But they don't accept that fact, and so every modification must be framed as some new standard procedure, a full binary field submitted or general-purpose series of dialogues. In the end content management systems become vast rulebooks full of protocol. Inck, on the other hand, has evolved to be a highly efficient and flexible collection of minimal tools.
Writing a website this way, and hand-setting type, are harder than their lazy cousins, Wordpress or offset lithography. But they are also easier in a way, specifically that they’re simpler, made more for our minds, and more enjoyable for it. Making this site has been my great joy through the last years' frustrations with making websites professionally. It’s an unindustrial process. It’s about making a whole thing, and gives whole joy to the mind that wants to make real what it sees.