Changing Web Hosts and Life Update
21 October 2023
After roughly a year and half supporting Neocities as a supportive member, I have switched web hosts. This post is to outline why as well as give an overall life update since it has been roughly 8 months since my last blog post.
Reflections on Neocities as a Web Host and Platform
I still stand by Neocities as a good way to start learning HTML and CSS, it's very easy to get started as I discovered for myself. Playing on the nostalgia of Geocities, Tripod, and Angelfire to get people to make custom sites directly appealed to my youthful enthusiasm and gave me a way to engage in coding as a hobby, something I had largely abandoned since completing my doctoral thesis and something I missed.
I am only getting started with my new web host, but my immediate impression is that a more standard web host has a user interface that is not very user friendly, and you're lucky if the documents are written in plain simple english. The number of options are larger, the complexity increases.
Of course, the Neocities platform lets you engage with a community of like minded people trying to escape from the social media landscape. This is the major reason I am keeping a presence on Neocities despite changing hosts. One of my first web pages was a Web Manifesto to outline my intentions on this site and my idealistic if somewhat vague vision of what I would like from a better web. Although I find myself sometimes getting stuck in bad habits social media have encouraged (follow back mentality), at least I can rest easy that no large corporation is profiting from my bad habits by injecting ads on my Neocities feed. In that respect, I am still happy I spent the time to support Neocities financially.
Other than the programming language limitation, the other reason I chose to switch web hosts is because Neocities lacks some features that are normally expected a web host (or any business) to have. There is no invoicing for monthly hosting. After a year of bringing this up with the staff, there still isn't invoicing. Clearly this is not a priority. Anyone with a business-oriented site thinking about deducing web hosting as a business expense, you may as well go with another host. This is a lost opportunity for Neocities to help support its community of artists and freelancers.
Finding a new web host
One issue that is very important to me is climate change. I decided to seek out a web host with green credentials, specifically one not just claiming carbon credits to skirt around responsibility. I wanted the web host to be making tangible efforts to running off renewable sources or become more energy efficient, ideally they're already running on 100% renewable sources. I also decided to find an Australian web host to support a local business in addition to not having to do currency conversions from USD to AUD which is inefficient from my side.
The Green Web Directory was very helpful to me to narrow down a web host. Unfortunately most are for medium to large businesses so plans are expensive but Swish Connect have a light weight economy plan which was suitable for me. I might make another post in future with my opinion about them but for now it meets the criteria I was looking for as they run on renewable sources and are carbon neutral.
There was a long hiatus period for me this year in terms of web updates, and an even longer hiatus for making artwork. This was because of personal matters along with the simple reality of balancing work and time off. I can say this year has been one of the most significant years of my life. After my previous long term relationship ended in December I came out as a trans guy. Coming to terms with this, both to myself and others, was a process of many months. By the time I had picked myself up from the depression of being dumped and accepted myself as trans, dysphoria was kicking my butt. I was depressed, anxious, and the dissociation I frequently experienced only got worse. I would attribute a large proportion of this year's hiatus purely due to the highs and lows of dealing with gender transition.
Social and medical transition progress
My egg cracked nearly a decade ago, but having an unsupportive partner essentially put my gender identity in a kind of denial and limbo. Once I acquired the freedom to explore this, I sought out medical treatment. I came out to close friends once I made that appointment with the intention to start medically transitioning. I always knew I would need access to testosterone to overcome dissociation and not feeling right in my gender presentation. To see the person I saw in my head looking back at me in the mirror.
The process of accessing medical help at my local gender clinic involves a wait list for each appointment, it ended up taking 2 appointments and 3-4 months to actually start hormone treatment from the moment I booked the appointment at the clinic. Thankfully my blood tests were fine, other health issues I have were under control, so the informed consent process went relatively smoothly.
Starting testosterone was exciting and freeing, but also put a time limit on coming out to family and the rest of people I knew. Especially since my voice started to drop quite early, it was not something I could hide. I came out at work months before starting testosterone due to dysphoria, but came out to family mostly after starting hormone therapy. I bring this up because the process of socially transitioning was prolonged over many months, for me, anyway. Each time I came out to someone I knew, I needed to recover. It was only after I came out to my friends, work, family, and to everyone else I knew in a bulk social media post, that my anxiety levels relating to socially transitioning largely settled. I've experienced a few isolated cases of public harrassment from strangers but nothing too bad.
I'm about five and a half months medically transitioning now and it's going well. The only down side is uncomfortable hormonal acne that not even a vegan diet can prevent (but as this is second puberty, I can only hope it will settle eventually). I have no regrets about starting hormone therapy and my dissociative episodes have significantly reduced. Past the shifting reflection in the mirror, I increasingly see glimpses of me. It's odd to say this because I frequently only have a vague impression of what I should look like, informed by my own mental self image, gender envy, and complex feelings and emotions that would take too long to communicate here. Somehow, it just feels right, feels better, and finding self assurance through what sometimes feels like a haze of emotions is an experience I would not discard. The highs of gender euphoria beat all the lows of dysphoria I experience. The euphoria and mental clarity hit me like a lightning bolt that shakes the earth, leaving a peaceful silence like a grassy field after rain.
The modern web should be kinder to trans people
The web (and world) is becoming more hostile to trans people and I wish it wasn't the case. The saying My body, my choice which focuses on bodily autonomy and the human right to decide what to do with one's own body applies to trans people just as much as female reproductive rights. Trans healthcare is a right, and gender clinics need more funding, not less. Wait lists of months to years is really unacceptable.
I'm grateful the indie web is so queer, I've encountered more than a few other trans guys in the wild. It's pretty cool! I still believe the alt web can be a refuge from other parts of the web that may be unkind to us - that's one of the things I want from a better web, sites that encourage meaningful human connection, sites that encourage compassion and help us understand one another. So, with this in mind, finding ways to make connections between sites (and ultimately people) outside the insular world of Neocities is an important future focus of mine.
Best foot foward
I'm a bit of an idealist so I really want to put my best foot forward and try to use this space to improve my life, whether it's developing new skills or sharing my hyperfixations or hobbies, keeping a positive focus is important to me since social media seems to bring out the worst in people (and me). Anything that stops me doomscrolling.
In summary, due to health issues as well as the curse of too many hobbies, my art output has been much lower than anticipated this year. Getting back into web coding has been a breath of fresh air and I hope to focus more on art projects and further developing my web projects.
Here's hoping you're doing well, reader. Until next time.
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Date: 10 Nov 2023