The Tao of Web Sites
by Tony Karp

"In our time there are many artists who do something because it is new; they see their value and their justification in this newness. They are deceiving themselves; novelty is seldom the essential. This has to do with one thing only; making a subject better from its intrinsic nature."
> Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

"Ars Longa, Techno Brevis"
> Henri de Toulouse-LaTech

"Don't imitate. Innovate."
> Vincent van Gui

"Great sites evolve from good sites. Good sites evolve from mediocre sites. You get the picture."
> Pablo PigCasso

"The journey of a thousand sites begins with but a single page."
> L'Architecte Karp


Trust your own judgment

When you build your web site, don't spend a lot of time thinking about what would please the most visitors, or what you can do to attract visitors to your site.

If you do, you'll end up with a site that looks like everyone else's. You'll have all the latest high-tech stuff, in an effort to make your site an "awesome experience."

The artists who pursued their own unique visions ended up being shown in museums. The artists who tried to please the most people ended up being shown in motel rooms.

Don't be misled into thinking that the best sites are built by those with the most technical prowess.

Don't seek inspiration from the web.

Follow your own star, set your own standards, be your own judge, and others will end up copying your pages.

Don't worry about achieving perfection on the first try. The nice thing about the web (as opposed to other forms of publishing), is that you can go back and change things again and again.





Contribute to the web

The web is the first opportunity for anyone to publish. And anyone in the world can view your work.

Don't feel that you have nothing to contribute.

After all, you're the most interesting person you know. In whose company do you spend most of your time?

So talk about yourself and your interests, your work, your family. Everyone's an expert on something. And everyone has something to say.

Present your ideas and your opinions to the world. Tell a joke. Tell a story. Give us your opinion. Tell us your ideas. Expound your theories. Show us your pictures.

Don't make your site just another list of "cool links." Publish your links. But specialize.

Become an expert. People will seek you out. Some of the most interesting sites on the web are the unique vision of one person.


Time to flow

This is about art. And about creating.

Time to get into the "flow." Athletes call it "the zone."

How do you know when you're there?

You become an observer of yourself. You shift away from the first person. You watch yourself creating art.

You can see the picture already in front of you. You're just tracing it.

You no longer care about the outcome, about the cost of the materials, screwing up, deadlines, schedules, the rest of the world. Everything else fades away and all you see is what's in front of you.

Your hand moves with confidence. The lines are sure and smooth. There is no doubt.

Later, when you look at what you've created, you get the feeling it was done by someone else.

It was. It was done by the creative spirit inside you. When you 'flow,' you're in touch with this spirit.

How do you make contact?

Music, meditation, environment, exercise, practice, rehearsal. Artists have used many things.

And don't forget inspiration. It's the emotional rocket fuel that will push you to new heights. That's why I have a growing collection of art books.

Pick one the artist who inspires you. (Not one whose technique you admire.) Get all the books you can about this artist. Collections, exhibitions, biographies, and anything else you can find.

This artist will be your spiritual guide.

"Poor is the student who does not surpass his teacher."
> Leonardo

Whenever I get into something new, I buy a lot of books about the mechanics of the subject. But I also buy at least one inspirational book about the subject.

If I were into home repair, I'd also have at least one book about Frank Lloyd Wright. This would give me the spiritual side, the one that makes me want to do the work.

Plus, I keep trying new things.


You already have freedom of speech

It's nice to believe that you can do anything you want, say anything you want, or show anything you want on your web site. After all, you have freedom of speech, and there's the First Amendment, right?

Well, sort of. We'll leave the legal issues to the legal folks. But there are other issues -- codes of conduct, ethics, self-restraint, and other vestiges of propriety in any society that calls itself civilized.

A part of our society sees this unrestricted freedom as a growing problem, one that requires the passage of laws. So laws will be passed, because the number of people who favor some form of censorship outweighs those who believe in total, unrestrained freedom of speech. And they always will.

And so there'll be laws, but not the sort that will please you, or anybody, actually, because these sort of laws are always born out of the worst kinds of compromise.

What can you, as someone on the web, do about it?

Well, you can turn your pages black, and you can show your blue ribbons and, if you're big enough, you can sue the government.

But protest isn't going to help. Both you and the other guy are proposing solutions that will please only one group. What's needed is a solution where everyone feels they've won.

Just imagine how famous the person who thinks up a really successful solution is going to be. What a golden opportunity to channel some of your creative energy into benefiting mankind.

As they said back in the sixties: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

To start the ball rolling, here's one suggestion -- self control.

When the movie industry was threatened with government censorship, they imposed self censorship, which has the additional benefits of making them appear public-spirited, while still maintaining full control of the situation.

Movies, after some time, added the present-day ratings code, which acts as a guide to avoiding movies that might offend with their content. Television is self-regulating, with a hierarchy of self censorship. (As are most other public media.)

In other words, the web, at many levels, can keep its own house in order.

And we need a symbol. Something to identify sites that are self-censored. How about a green ribbon?


Choose who you want to be

Eastern Philosophy speaks of the Superior man and the Inferior man. The difference is this:

The Superior man is governed from within.

The Inferior man is governed by law.

The choice is yours.


To be continued...

Copyright 1957-2019 Tony & Marilyn Karp
Originally posted March 6, 1996