Kicks Condor announced the launch of his new web directory: href.cool. This is a meticulously made, well thought out tiny web directory. Each listing is curated: carefully chosen, descriptions crafted, meticulously displayed like a rare Ancient Etruscan object in a museum. But it’s more than that, it’s also a kid’s cigar box full of treasures: a couple of pretty marbles found in the dirt at the playground, a yo-yo, a mummified frog, a beloved grandfather’s service medal, a four color ball-point pen, a Doctor Who Tardis pencil sharpener and a secret decoder ring.
Let’s start with the wrapper. This is a nice touch: you get your choice of three templates. The default is cool, clean, sleek and inviting, like Taylor Swift, perfect in drapey silk. Another is yellow almost brutalist but the larger type and thumbnails make it easy to read. Did I mention it was yellow? The third is a homage to the earliest old time gray Yahoo! directory look, which might be best for working in a darkened room. And they all just work and are good choices.
The categories and sub categories are right out of that young boy’s cigar box: they represent the interests of the curator – they are not trying to please everyone or be orthodox, instead they proclaim, this is my collection and this is how I cataloged it. And you know, they make sense.
Listings have thumbnail images. On a conventional directory I’m not a fan of thumbs, but here they work well and help define the space for each listing. Without them, a category page would just be massed paragraphs of text blending in to one another. Each listing description is unique and generally tells you why Kick’s included it or why it’s cool. This is a rabbit hole in and of itself: you can spend lots of time browsing the directory just reading the descriptions without actually clicking on the links. They are great fun.
With the links themselves, we are back in the museum. This is the second rabbit hole: most of these sites are unique, and precious for the reasons given by Kicks. He’s your guide for this museum tour. I won’t spoil it for you, go to the directory and look around, you won’t be bored.
Which brings me to another neat feature, the editor has given an estimate of how extensively deep each listing is in a range between 1 minute to infinity. This is either the depth of the rabbit hole or the length of alien abduction lost time that will occur on each site. And you can browse and sort the links by how much time you have to kill. I’ve never seen that before and I like it.
I know Kicks kinda wants to bring back the practice of “surfing the Web”. I think he has succeeded in producing a directory that encourages that. There is no search function. Right now the directory does not need it and it’s going to be awhile before it does, if ever. This is a browsing directory where you want to take your time and wander through the categories looking for goodies.
The critical part of me wants to find flaws with this site but it’s hard to do that because it does everything it is intended to do. It’s not a search engine – it’s not Google. In fact it is exactly the opposite of soulless, godless search engines like Google and Bing. This is a human built directory. It uses human judgement on the quality of the listings. It uses human tastes as to aesthetics, humor, value, worthiness. These are all things that the Googles cannot measure. This is not a place for fast searching, for helicoptering in to find one page to match your query. Each link is like a monograph or a tome in a library.
Perhaps linking—and spending time telling you why I linked—is good enough. Perhaps it’s superior!
I think it is.
More than anything, I hope mine intrigues you to build your own.
This is an important point. You can do something like this too. Figure out a way to list links to stuff you think is neat even if it’s just a good old static HTML link page.
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Haha! This is a very thoughtful and generous review! I am very grateful that you
took the time to look through the cigar box and write down your impressions like
Normally I would be disappointed that you had no criticism or suggested
improvements—however, in your case, I designed the thing very much with you
(and our conversations) in mind. It’s a reaction to Indieseek and influenced by
many of the web directories you’ve worked on in the past. So I really wanted to
I have been trying to consider what to write about the months I spent building
it. One thing that is very unusual about Href.cool (under the hood) is that it
only loads once. So if someone links you to the
Bodies/Adventure category—it’ll load the
HTML for that category and it will also load the rest of the directory (but not
directory isn’t very big—and I thought I’d take advantage of that.
My reasons for taking this approach:
I wanted someone to have the ability to download a single page of the
directory and that would save a local FULL copy of the directory. (This
doesn’t work completely yet on all browsers, but I am almost there.)
This makes it easier for me to share a single-file version of the directory
on decentralized web networks (like the Dat network and IPFS.) I want it to
be simple to back up.
TiddlyWiki is currently the only software I know of that keeps everything on
one page. But it’s showing its age. I wanted to start playing around with
alternatives to TiddlyWiki that can be single-page but still work with the
To me, this aspect of the directory is the most exciting part. And since it’s
all static HTML, I don’t need to install WordPress or some other server software to
manage it. I’ve noticed that you’ve had some server errors showing up on
Indieseek and I’d really like to help prevent that kind of thing. (I’m getting
errors on the listings pages on both Indieseek and the ‘Nodes’ directory.)
If I have any criticism it would be the lack of a search form, except the directory isn’t really big enough to need one – yet. Someday it will need. But all said it really is more of a browsing directory so that people notice treasures as they poke around. It’s a place to linger like a museum whereas Indieseek is intended to be more of a find it and leave place like search.
There just is no one right way to do a directory. I like that you brought fresh eyes and ideas to an old technology. I’m too mired in the past and convention. So hats off to you for doing something new.
Thanks for tipping me off on the errors. There are none when I’m logged in, but I see them when I’m completely logged out. I’ve put in a support request for both sites.