Robin Rendle

April 17, 2021

Everyone in the world is just an email away

Dearest of Lucys,

Ya know what bugs me? What really grinds my gears? The way that folks write about the web as if it’s all been figured out in the same way that books have been figured out. There’s that snarky joke that goes around twitter dot com from time to time about how there‘s only two kinds of websites, but dang...

There’s really no such thing: there are infinite websites left to make! Endless formats and mediums and systems and visuals and layouts galore—they're out there, waiting for us to bump into them.

(I am waving my hands around in the air as I type this.)

I know this is something we keep coming back to over and over again in our chats lately because there’s this feeling we share: websites aren’t boring at all and instead there’s this huge un-tapped (untapt? untapped? I refuse to find out because I like the pirate-sounding untap’d now)—ahem—untap’d potential when it comes to publishing on the web. There’s something so gosh darn exciting about trying to figure out the web as we go, inventing it as we type to each other.

I know you know this but gosh darn it websites are so cool.

They’re cool because a kid can sit in their bedroom and with nothing more than a dash of HTML and CSS they can make a website better than the New York Times or the darling tech company of the week. There’s nothing preventing them from making a weird-ass website that’s purpose-built for a handful of people and this is me riffing on your latest blog post:

Who are the people in my life whose response to any nascent creative work is: “Have you considered trying to make this as un-commercially-viable as possible?”

There’s something infinitely cool and punk rock about making a website as un-commercially-viable-as-possible to me.

Anyway, I see HTML and CSS as a bridge—a set of languages and agreements between browsers that give us access to nigh-on everyone in the world. (And I think that’s a neat way to see publishing in general, actually. Publish a thing and suddenly you have access to more ideas and weirder friends, rather than just simply acquiring a handful of retweets and a bunch of $).

Anyway anyway, I’m typing at you now from my inbox which is then being published as a blog post via Hey World—once I hit send it’ll be catapulted out into the ether for everyone to read. Isn’t that exciting? Even our inboxes are publishing platforms now. And sure, Hey is a commercial product, but what this suggests to me is that we haven’t even come close to figuring out the web yet.

There’s this whole frontier of websites and publishing on the web left to discover, build, and remix.

You’ve seen Chris Coyier’s blog Email is Good right? I think we’ve talked about this before. Chris writes about how capital-e Electronic Mail is one of the most important skills to acquire, not only for your career but also because email can make you a better person, too.

Here’s how: You could email your high school teacher and say hi. Or reach out to someone who inspires you and just say “thank you for the gift.” There are some folks I know who are really good at email (you’re one of them) and by that I mean these folks remember that email is sort of what binds us all together in a way. They send emails out left and right to old friends and distant strangers, to connect and reach out, to buzz someone they admire from very far away.

Also, isn’t it completely bonkers that you can email everyone in the world?

I’m an exceptionally bad email-er, not just in terms of “7000 unread emails” and cluttered labels and what not, but because I often forget that our entire civilization is hyperlinked by email. It’s this quality that makes me bad at it, I think. And sort of not-quite-as-good-of-a-person-as-I’d-like-to-be. 

That’s one thing I admire about you, how you treat email like something special—like a thanksgiving machine. (I don’t care how cheesy this is because websites and email are cool as hell and I don’t care who hears it. FINALLY someone is brave enough to say it.)

So: you keep writing about “passing the gift along” when it comes to websites and publishing and making money on the web and I would like to hear more about that please and thank you.

(Oh and I’m most certainly sorry, too).