Parallel blogs (or parablogs)
Saturday, 29 August 2020

1. What

The idea is similar to the one of parallel universes: (but to a lesser extent of course): in a parallel blog each post consists of multiple versions of itself that co-exist within the same “plane of existence” (the URL of every individual post). The sum of all these co-existing posts constitute the actual post that one may expect under a given URL.
Take the page you are reading right now as an example. There are multiple versions of it and all of them co-exist under the same URL (/posts/2020/08/parallel-blogs/). How to access the other versions? Just reload the browser. You may get a different version of this page, similar to the previous one and that conveys the same meaning (most of the time).

2. Why

There are few ideas more overwhelming than that of the multiverse, and the mere notion that the universe may fork itself perpetually before the realization of every action—no matter how small—is fascinating. In some—poor——poor— way this site tries to implement the idea. One page, multiple versions. Some versions could contradict all the other ones, some versions could be slight variations of the original(which one is the original?), , some versions have grammar mistakes, some versions are really goodbad, some versions make this site one of the top 500 sites on the web, etc.

3. How

An easy way to do this is by wrapping different versions of text snippets in <span> tags and hide them or display them randomly. For example, the next sentence would have two possible rendering outcomes:

My favourite book is <span class="v1">Foucault's Pendulum</span><span class="v2">Fictions</span>.

Outcome 1:

My favourite book is Foucault's Pendulum.

Outcome 2:

My favourite book is Fictions.

I don’t know how to generate random numbers with plain HTML and CSS, so I use JavaScript. Take a look at the source code of this page and see how it’s done. If JavaScript is disabled, only one version is displayed (the one tagged as version one).

4. How (II)

Wrapping every potential version of text in <span> tags with custom CSS classes here and there is tiring, so I came up with a way to specify the same but with fewer characters. This is what I’m doing now instead:

My favourite book is @{Foucault's Pendulum||Fictions}@.

It’s shorter and less distracting (for the writer). The <span> tags and CSS classes are added automatically. While I could have implemented it in JavaScript, I thought it was worth adding it to my static site generator belbo.

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