The Site

The site.

That is a subject and a half.

I have had some form of a website on and off for 10 or so years, and constantly maintained one for nearly 4 now. I started what evolved into this on May 27, 2003. I was bored one night, lonely, upset about having just had to move, and decided to start a blog on Blogger. During one post, I needed a way to post some images.  As I was a regular .Mac subscriber at the time, I hosted the images there linked to from my blog. Come September 1, 2003, I realized the futility of having a presence in two different places and migrated from Blogger to iBlog, which ran right from my .Mac service.

It was around this time I began more serious work. I started trying to code the non-blog pages by hand, rather than using a Adobe GoLive as I had been using (a WYSIWYG editor).  I also quickly grew tired of the iblog default themes and began making my own template.  This allowed me to have a consistant look across the site and blog, and put to use some of teh HTML and JavaScript I had been leaning at school at the time.  Eventually, I became one of the first on the web to have an iBlog theme that was valid by by the W3C XHTML validator.

By the summer of 2005, I was beginning to get rather tired of the shortcomings of the .Mac service. It costs $99 a year for 250MB of disk space and an email account, plus a few free software titles a year (mostly low cost shareware). There was no PHP or MySQL support, which were required for some fun things I wanted to do. It just wasn’t worth it. I had to write the blog on my computer, wait for the program to compile it, then upload to the server.  Whenever something happened to the server files (somehow they would become corrupted every few months) I had to spend hours re-uploading every back post. I was limited to JavaScript for any scripting, and every service I used was from a different company: blog, comments, statistic tracking, polls.  Each was provided by different sites, requiring linking and slowing down page load, let alone being just inconvenient.

So, I started looking for alternatives. There was other software that could run on .Mac, but that was only a partial fix. What I needed was to leave .Mac. In my searches, I found Nearly Free Speech. Unlike other hosts I had looked at, they have a pay only for what you use model. Instead of paying a set amount for a set service, I pay for the storage that I use and for the bandwidth that I use. No wasted money, and very flexible. Plus, they offer all the cool stuff I had hoped for (PHP, MySQL, etc…).

So having a new host, I needed a new blog software. There were 4 options at the time that I really considered. WordPress, MoveableType, keeping iBlog, or writing my own. WordPress was totally opensource, and offered everything I wanted. MoveableType also offered all that I wanted, but were becoming a little bit “corporate”. They had just instituted a pay for certain uses policy, and I didn’t want to start using it just to need to move to something else after a year because they wanted money. iBlog had served me well, and it would ease the transition some to keep it, but was a little under-featured. And writing my own would be ugly. I am sure it’s more than possible, but for a truly flexible system thats easy to use, it wasn’t really a great option. There were other ideas I looked at too. Blosxom was a contender for a little while, but seemed too small to be highly configurable. In the end, WordPress came out on top.

Before the real work began though, a few more pieces were required. I could keep my old support services, but I decided to look for new ones. For stat tracking, I tried AWStats, but couldn’t seem to get it working. I ended up with BBClone instead, which has served me well. NFSN eventually installed AWStats by default and I tried it for a while, but prefer BBClone (despite it seeming to now be a dead project). Comments are built into WordPress, so that was already solved. For polls, I went through several trys at different services.  My initial poll offering was simply asking a question in a post and asking for votes as comments. Eventually though, I found WP-Polls and have liked it.  Gallery software was also a difficult one to find, eventually opting for Aniga Gallery.   After some time though, I moved my galleries off-site to Picasa WebAlbums.  It allows me to link to all by pictures, but I don’t need to pay to host them.

Finally, I wrote up a new template for the blog to make it my own, and wrote up a website for all the other information using the same style and theme. In September 2005, I declared the move complete. One problem remained though, moving old entries/comments/polls to the new site. Entries I moved over in about a month, comments and polls I didn’t fully integrate for about 2 years though, as different difficulties presented themselves.

A year after the big move, in the summer of 2006, I decided that my theme was getting old, and I was growing tired of hand coding every page of the site, envious of the easy templating of the blog. Since WP allows pages in a blog, along with the normal posts, I decided to attempt integration. Overall, this has been a great decision. There is less HTML to deal with, and backups are easier as well. I wrote up a new template with seven different color schemes to apply to the new blog. I also did something I had considered since the year before when I moved, and purchased a domain name,

Since then, I have moved to a more descriptive domain, I have also changed themes a few more times, sometimes of my own creation and sometimes a ready-made one with some modifications.

Work on the site continues, of course, as it always will. Since WordPress introduced “tags”, I have been slowly tagging past posts, and changing the categories older posts are listed under.

Ironically, The day I started my blog, May 27, 2003, is the same day that the WordPress project went public. While I did not use WordPress for the first 2 years, it still seems fitting that I ended up with them, as the blog and WordPress both share the same birthday.

To see what some of the old sites looked like, have a look at the history page.