Coding in a notebook by the side of the river with HTML Energy ❇️

04 Jun 2023

Three-minute read

This Saturday I participated in the HTML energy freewrite, an occasional in-person hangout where participants code small websites in a public park. HTML Energy in NYC is run by Laurel and Omar, and previously Elliot, who moved to NL this spring.

This is the 3rd or 4th HTML Energy meetup I’ve participated in, and I enjoy it because of its community-building friendliness. It feels a bit like working in a library with folks around you concentrating on similar activities. It’s good ‘energy.’ There’s a sharing component where folks bring snacks and also share our completed sites at the end of the session. It feels beginner-friendly as well. There’s no instruction per se, just a time for people to jam on web 1.0 energy.

HTML Energy studying what we made Gathering around to see what everyone created

This Saturday we met at Valentino Park in Red Hook. I met a lot of new folks and enjoyed sitting next to the rolling East River.

There was a series of printed out ‘prompts’ to guide creation, but we were also encouraged to pick our own topic or theme, or to take inspiration from the scene around us. I chose that route, and decided to make a site dedicated to that moment and space. We were waiting out a storm to pass by, and the river was splashing a bit more aggressively because of it. There was a cool breeze, scattered conversations, passersby, and the occasional roving band of kids or a party nearby on the riverbank. And we were sitting by a number of Red Hook warehouses, in varying states of re-use and decay, with graffiti and murals painted on them.

After spending approximately an hour coding the group of 23 of us paused and placed our computers on blankets and walked around and looked at what each other made.

HTML Energy computers, devices and notebooks An array of computers, notebooks and devices showing off our screens

I didn’t bring a laptop this time (or any previous time!) so I actually wrote my code with pen in my traveler’s notebook first. This is a bit of a challenge because I also wrote CSS and javascript code to make the site dynamic, which maybe goes a bit against the html ethos? After that I used the command line on my phone (shelly) and ssh’ed into a server where I coded in vim. Since I wanted to take photos and then include those as well, I couldn’t figure out the easiest method to do that. But someone suggested using social media or imgur. I ended up logging into glitch.com and uploading images there, grabbing the URL and then pasting them with vim into my html page. A few other folks coded on their phone or tiny alternative computing devices.

You can check out the site project page here:

=> project info

And a direct link to the project running in a browser:

=> redhook

I took photos of the scene around us with Bitcam, a dithered aesthetic, and manipulated these with Imagemagick on the command line. I attempted to make a simple site of images, overlapping, overlaid but with some motion and randomness to allow the image to change dynamically. This was a challenge to code in javascript on paper but I tested and fixed it once I typed it in. So this project’s website output reflects the conditions that it was made in. Maybe it gives a small feel for the calmness mixed with the energy of the folks around me and then the feeling that it could start storming any moment!

My redhook site A screenshot of the redhook site I built. The final site is dynamic.

Coding on a blanket in a park with friends next to a river: recommended!