An Interview with Marijn van Hoorn

Marijn van Hoorn is the creator of the delightful & fascinating Satyr's Forest.

An Interview with Marijn van Hoorn

Marijn van Hoorn is the creator of the delightful & fascinating Satyr's Forest.

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Marijn van Hoorn, and I’m a student based in the north east of England who happens to maintain a personal website by the name of The Satyrs’ Forest in their free time.

How did you get interested in that?

I’m a member of the internet generation — my mum and dad met on IRC chat; the latter set up a curated list of bookmarks to introduce me to the world wide web in my childhood. I suppose my infatuation with internet sightseeing and personal sites began there. Sometime around 2017, i happened upon the free web host–cum–community Neocities, and figured i’d set up shop after burning all my social media accounts. The rest is history.

What tools & gear do you use? (Could be hardware, software, something else entirely.)

The whole operation is run from an aging gaming computer i picked up in 2016 to be able to run Minecraft with shaders, running Windows 10. Behind the scenes, the site is the usual creole of HTML, CSS, Javascript, and a bit of PHP here and there — nothing too fancy or modern.

I mostly edit in VS Code, and make the graphics for the site in Paint.NET. Notes — when i remember — are either taken in a cheapo physical notebook I got from Amazon — i tried to find a link, but it’s no longer available — or in Obsidian, a Markdown-based “knowledge database” (which seems to me an awfully fancy name for what’s essentially just a more organised Notepad).

Besides the tools, what are the routines & habits that help you get your work done?

Oh, lord, I have none. I might just be the least punctual person to ever roam the earth.

Your website has a very interesting design and some pages have their own design. Do you have a particular design philosophy?

Rule 1: Don’t be boring. Since the halcyon days of Geocities, it seems like all the whimsy has been taken out of the web — everything’s the same focus-tested coat of white and grey with a slight lick of an accent colour. I like to combine the colourful, vernacular design sensibilities of the ’90s and ’00s with the capabilities of what’s possible in the ’20s: pink backgrounds, glowing text, and unique colours for every page, but with web fonts, flexbox, and the like.

Your decision to make the content you create public domain is admirable. Why public domain as opposed to another permissive Creative Commons license?

I’ve never much been a fan of copyright law: it stifles innovation, censors creative output, and leads to old works nobody much cares for being stuck in a horrendous limbo where nobody can legally access them. The choice to use a Creative Commons licence, then, was obvious for me.

As for why public domain, it’s simple: the simplest restrictions are no restrictions. I don’t want to be credited if people are just lifting an image or bit of CSS here and there — that’s how they learn to code! The calculation might be different if i stood to make a bit of cash from my site, but as it is, it’s a 100% hobby project, out of pocket. It wouldn’t be right of me to restrict access.

What resources (books, videos, etc.) or advice do you have for people that might be interested in what you do?

My advice to anyone who wants to make a personal site of their own:

  • Don’t be boring. Seriously — if i see one more white-grey-and-a-spot-of-colour techie website that might as well be someone’s paperwork, i’m going to throw my monitor out a window. And that would be a terrible waste of money on my part, so please don’t.
  • Don’t be fancy. Simple HTML, CSS, and a bit of Javascript will get you 99.9% of the way. I’m a hobbyist — I barely even know what a React or a Vue is, and that’s never stopped me, nor did it stop the thousands of webmasters in days gone by!
  • Don’t use your tools to talk about your tools. You’ll notice there’s vanishingly little talk about tech on my site, and that’s deliberate: nobody wants to read about that cool programme you wrote in Rust++ or whatever the language du jour is, and certainly, nobody wants to read your blog when the only post on it is explaining that you’ve got this cool new static site blog that you’re totally going to start updating any day now…

How do you relax or take a break?

I’m blessed enough to live with both easy access to the countryside and the city — a good walk is my number one remedy to clear my head. If anyone reading this is visiting the Newcastle area, I can heartily recommend Jesmond Dene.

What are some of your favorite things that you've created?

Ach, I wish I had an answer — my website is, as it stands, the primary fruit of my creative endeavours. I’d love to pick up drawing or music some day, though…

From the wide range of pages on your site, I get the sense you have a lot of different interests. What are some of your favorite pages you made?

The cabinet of hypertext curiosities is my pride and joy, probably the part of the site i’ve spent the most time on, and definitely the most viewed according to my analytics. (I’ll say i have mixed feelings on the fact that the most viewed thing i’ve ever made entirely consists of links out to other people’s things.) So far as the less interactive side of the site goes, “Our Christmas tradition” is probably my favourite thing i’ve written, just because it was a  treat to walk down memory lane like that.

Who or what inspires or motivates you; or, alternatively, that you admire?

The biggest inspirations for my site were probably — in no particular order — the sites of conlangers Jan van Steenbergen and David J. Peterson, Kicks Condor’s linkroll, the blog Diamond Geezer, the Institute for Y2K Æsthetics, and, i suppose, that one Youtube series where the guy tries to walk across Wales in a straight line.

What would be your dream setup?

I don’t really care for specs — all i want, and this is vain of me, is for my computer to be housed in a faux-antique wooden dream. It’s a simple dream, but by gosh, i’m determined to make it happen.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Know thyself, and wear sunscreen.