April 1, 2010 12:00 AM

So, I’ve relaunched this blog.

And by relaunched I mean, changed the backend to WordPress, imported all the old posts (including the pre-Blogger ones) and made no visual changes or tweaks whatsoever. It’s actually sort of weird to try and circumvent any and all style tweaks.

Besides the fact that I’ve been using WordPress with clients for a bit now, the other reason I went to it was that I had finally had enough of Blogger. The biggest thing was that Blogger for some reason wouldn’t publish enough of my archives. I never figured out if it was a bug or what but anyway it was time to move on. Not to mention my workplace blocks Blogger so there’s no chance of the occasional blog post from there.

The process in moving to WordPress and vicariously looking back was interesting for sure. My first post was in September, 2000, so that makes this blog close to a decade old now. I’m actually trying to remember what the process was that lead me to this. I think back when the web was relatively new – think 1996 or so – everyone had to have a “web page”. This is what lead to things like GeoCities where everyone had a brief but hideous online presence with an unrememberable URL. So I had probably made many “pages” about myself up until then but most of them were on tamu.edu domains, so they were destined to be purged as soon as I graduated.

I went with Tripod for hosting back then and I don’t remember why other than Tripod had some particular advantage at the time. I think maybe it was FTP access. GeoCities, I believe, limited you to using their built-in editor which was very limited and worse, pretty much condemned you to making laughably bad pages. That, or maybe it was because Tripod allowed for a simpler URL. I forget.

The look of the site has always been, and as of this writing still is, very simple. When I was making the site we were in this bizarre transition phase between the ugly GeoCities sites of the world and the maturation of CSS. Consequently most personal webpages were either Comic Sans nightmares or trying to be so ridiculously slick that they frequently rendered incorrectly (this was before Firefox and the rise of standardized browsers) or were performance nightmares. So when I made this page I decided to chuck all that and just do a dead simple, Times New Roman affair. That first post promises a better looking site is “coming soon” but that’s never happened. At some point I decided I liked this page (which, for all its simplicity, still doesn’t render right in the first Mosaic.) I liked that it was more like reading a book than a website. I’m not saying it will never ever change, but it’s neat to have something that’s more or less constant.

I went with a company called NameZero for the domain name. NameZero appears to still be around as a domain registrar but at the time their main gimmick was that they would allow you to get your domain name for free with the proviso that your web site was basically a frames page on their site with your page in the top and a banner ad in the bottom frame. I believe you could also purchase domains from them as well but this was the era of the “free whatever so long as we can serve ads” where you could get things like free Internet access or even a free PC so long as you looked at ads (then the bottom fell out of that market and that was that)

Initially I had the page hosted at NetZero do some JavaScript forwarding and send the user to the Tripod page but then I learned a secret – since NameZero didn’t sanitize HMTL from their inputs you could submit a title or a meta tag with HTML in it that would circumvent their frames page altogether. This was an awesome trick that worked marvelously for some number of months until NameZero caught on and locked out the domains of everyone who pulled this crap and so for some amount of time, so I was actually without a domain. I don’t 100% remember why I didn’t pay up other than the concept that back in college I was living off of my parents and after I graduated I didn’t make crap for money but eventually the domain lapsed and I repurchased it.

Some time after the NameZero debacle, I moved the site to Blogger. Prior to Blogger I was actually making the page, by hand, using FrontPage (2000, I think). I vaguely seem to recall making it across multiple pages and then manually doing the “older posts” / “newer posts” links. Blogger, it seemed, was perfectly suited to this task. It was primarily aimed around the concept that it would store the posts in its database and then create the entire site and send it via FTP to wherever you told it to go. So I did the work to make Blogger’s version of the site look like what I wanted it to and started using that. If I’m remembering right, there was no ability to manually set the date or time on posts, so I had to keep the pre-Blogger posts in a separate file. When I opened up that file’s source to import them into WordPress, it still had a GENERATOR tag of FrontPage 4.0.

After I moved to the DFW Metroplex a local friend who did onsite hosting offered me free web hosting, which was good because Tripod at this point had multiple popups and embedded ads – they literally injected ad HTML source into your site after you uploaded it. So yeah, that service – while free – turned rather lame rather quickly. I’ve stuck with my friend’s hosting ever since – he just recently helped me by setting up WordPress on this server (no small feat as he’s a pure Windows shop).

Something that came along with the Blogger transition was the name “blog”. I had never called what I did a blog even though that’s essentially what it was. It wasn’t some webpage showing off my cats or talking about how awesome I am or displaying fifty animated gifs, it was basically me just putting online whatever I felt like whenever I felt like doing it. In the beginning I blogged a lot more often. I would have one-sentence posts or quick insights, maybe even the occasional linked image results of a quiz. It was sort of like my own one-man Facebook.

Really though I’m a very wordy person and so this blog has always been a good way for me to prattle on and on about some subject or other and commit it all to something. Even more interesting is how it’s out there for the Internet to read. I just feel like writing whatever I want and on whatever terms I want. Quick and dirty posts are fun and all but the short novels I write here are definitely the most fun to do. Hopefully the most fun to read, too.

As for readership, I have no idea really. I don’t do web statistics on this site, never have. I sort of don’t want to know. I think if I knew how many (or how few) people were reading this thing it would change things (I’d get depressed if no one was reading it, I’d feel stressed if too many people were). I get the occasional email from a random person who read a post and has a comment – I’ve posted some of these in posts before. Sci-Fi author John Scalzi wrote me once to correct a point I’d made on a book he wrote. I once did a web search on “Schnapple” and some other random term and found a school paper (college or high school I don’t remember) quoting a post of mine.

Back when I started RSS existed but no one used it. There were a few variants of it (typical open source quibbling/splitting) and really it was a newer version of RDF, which as I follow it was something Netscape just invented several years earlier. So this site did not have RSS for a long time. At some point Blogger started offering an RSS feed as a “pro” subscriber offer. In keeping with my “please don’t spend money” theme, I didn’t subscribe to the “Pro” version. At some point Google bought Blogger and so the “Pro” option went away and most of the features now became free. RSS wasn’t one of them. At some point you could get an Atom feed. Atom was an attempt to bridge the RSS standards, and just wound up being another standard itself (trying to merge two standards into one standard just makes a third standard). I used Feedburner to turn the Atom feed into something that could be used by anything (I should check to see if anyone subscribes to that…) Nowadays RSS is so ubiquitous the idea of charging for it seems ludicrous.

With rare exceptions, I never got personal with my posts. I had an entry on my childhood cat, an entry on a coworker that annoyed me, and some info on my move to the DFW Metroplex. That’s about it. I have a post somewhere I wrote about the process of moving and changing jobs which was initially much longer, but I was paranoid that I would somehow “jinx” it, causing me to lose my job or whatever (it sounds silly, and it is, but this was 2003 at the peak of the offshoring/shitty economy bit). Over the years I have seen people fired for blog entries or Facebook updates, so I’m glad I played things pretty close to the vest.

Anyway my posting continued pretty much unabated for many years, although in more recent years it’s slowed down tremendously. This was a byproduct of two reasons – first, I started putting out longer and longer posts, and second, I got busier as life progressed. For the first few years I blogged a lot. Frequently multiple times per week, occasionally multiple times per day. I think this was because my job at the time was pretty lame. My first job in the Metroplex – which I held in various capacities for four years – was a lot more hectic but I still was able to blog and post. About three years ago I switched jobs and I really haven’t blogged a whole lot since. As you can see, I went an entire year without posting. In fact, this post has a date of 4/1/2010 even though you won’t be able to see it until later. And the post before that was 4/1/2009. Again, the reasons are various and personal but suffice it to say I’ve been busy.

Plus in the meantime “blogging” got all weird.First there became this term, the “Blogosphere”, which was this umbrella term for the ecosystem of bloggers. It’s also a stupid term. I wonder how many of these terms are just someone fucking around. Second, the definition of a “blog” got cloudy. I define a blog as what I’m doing here – posting, writing what I want, a personal “web log”. But CNN has a “Political Ticker” on their site which is considered a blog. Commercial sites run by enormous entities have “blogs”. Sometimes those are cool, usually though they’re just marketing speak with an RSS feed. A movie comes out, launches with a website, the website has a “blog”, and then as soon as the movie opens the blog is never touched again. Of course the same could be said for a large number of “real” blogs – I’ve had a dozen or more friends tell me about their new blog, I bookmark it, then it never sees an update past the first or second entry.

“Blogging” also peaked. The concept of blogging is now passe depending on whom you listen to. Which is sort of fine to me – I never wrote this thing to be hip. Today social networking is the craze. I know someone who briefly abandoned their blog in favor of MySpace, which to me is sort of like abandoning the concept of drinking milk in favor of motor oil. And then MySpace became passe. Now it’s Facebook. And Twitter. Facebook is sort of neat – it solves some of the problems MySpace had, like how to figure out where your friend is if you know their name and not their Internet handle of snookycakes57, or if you only knew her maiden name back in high school, or if you want to make sure that this John Smith is the same one that attended San Dimas High, class of 1996. But I don’t see much use for it – as it stands now for the most part I get to see people I knew in college bitch about Obama, or people I knew in high school play with each other’s virtual farms. Bonus points for when their account gets hacked and I get ten email messages from “them” because they only discovered the Internet yesterday apparently and have never heard of a Phishing scam. Also I’ve only posted one picture of myself there but there’s dozens of me because other people tag old pics of me. Not sure if I like that.

Twitter is a neat idea, but it’s not a good idea. It’s neat that I can follow Ice-T and see him mention what happened on the set of SVU that day. Or the guys from Mythbusters. Or Electric Six. But that’s about it. I don’t see how people get value out of it. I don’t see how Twitter makes money. I don’t think ten years from now it will be seen as a source of data. And as you can tell from how I write my blog posts, I think having only 140 characters is worse than a joke. Twitter does not allow for long form posts and thoughts and while some people see that as a useful zen limit in order to condense your thoughts, I think it’s an idiotic limitation designed to accommodate arcane technology (SMS messages). I use it for when I have a wild hair thought that can be summed up in a single sentence, but that’s it. I simply don’t see how it can last.

I actually thought Blogger (the company) invented blogging (the concept). Now I’m not sure which came first. In any event, when I first started using Blogger you typed your post, HTML and all, into a box and I think it had some sort of preview mechanism but that was it. It led me to use some piece of software, w.bloggar, to do the actual composting and then I would paste it into Blogger. Initially there was actually some sort of length limit so one of my really long posts kept getting eaten alive by the site until I split it into three different posts. Which I then had to post in reverse order so that it would look right.

At some point Blogger created a realtime WYSIWYG interface, which made things nicer and easier. But I noticed that the archives would never post right. And there was a longish stretch in there where it flat wouldn’t work with my FTP server. I would literally have to have it FTP the files to my local machine (an IP-address based FTP server) and then transfer the files “by hand” to the server. Meanwhile my wife wanted a blog for her website and she had heard WordPress was the best so she had me set that up. I had barely heard of WordPress, had never worked with the LAMP stack before (much less in hosted-by-GoDaddy form) but I gave it a shot and it worked. And I was very impressed by the WordPress software. Way better than Blogger, had real RSS, and an impressive ecosystem of plugins. I considered using it for my site, but never moved on the idea. Then the other shoe dropped with Blogger – they announced they were discontinuing FTP support, the one thing I used, in favor of “Blogger for Domains”. I said no thanks, exported my blog (to Atom, of course), and got to work on importing to WordPress.

WordPress can only import from RSS and Blogger can only export to Atom, so I had to find some online service that turns Atom to RSS and then point WordPress to that. Amazingly, it worked. I imported the pre-Blogger entries by hand and then went through the cleanup process. Blogger kept certain metadata fields for itself in the export as “posts” so I had to ditch those. It also published all the “drafts” I had as posts, so I had to unpublished those (most of those will never be posted – they’ve pretty much rusted over). Overall I’m impressed with how well it worked, and I’m surprised I have over 300 posts. It’s also amusing that the posts are imported in such an order that they’re backwards (i.e., the most recent ones have low ID’s, the oldest ones have high ID’s, then there’s this one)

Something I noticed when I switched this thing to WordPress that I never really saw before was the fact that every post I have has no title. I could be wrong, but I think back when I started using Blogger, they didn’t let you give titles to posts. Which was fine with me since I never titled my posts anyway. Now, though, it just seems odd since the RSS feed just has a lot of entries with “No Title”. In reality the “title” is four or five spaces but I guess WordPress trims that out. For now I’m going to name the posts after the date they’re posted. I’m not sure what I’m going to do long term.

One of the things that’s really annoying about the Internet sometimes is when the premise of hyperlinks break down. Namely, when I went through a lot of my old posts I would click on things I’ve linked to discover that the links are dead. Sometimes the server is gone. Sometimes it’s a page on someone’s vanity site which has long been purged. Sometimes it’s a page on a major site which is still in existence but the link itself is dead because they purged old pages, or because they changed their link system and didn’t put in any reverse compatibility. This last one is the situation I found myself in – I had many posts which linked to other posts, but those links would be dead once I moved to WordPress since they’re based on Blogger’s schema. It took several days to find enough time to do it but I went through and edited all these internal links to fit with the new WordPress world order so that at the very least I wouldn’t be guilty of everything I hate.

Anyway, enough prattling. I’ve gone through my blog and I’ve selected a number of my favorite posts:

Music – I go on longish diatribes about KISS, The Rolling Stones, Van Halen and Chinese Democracy. Also, the compilation album and the death of radio.

Professional – I hate on Visual Basic, mavel at C++, I dissect .NET (I wrote this in the .NET 1.0 era so don’t kill me if I got some stuff wrong), and murder the occasional keyboard. Oh and I hate job hunting. Also I like things complicated.

Movies and TV – I run down Disney, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Twin Peaks.

Mythbusting – I try to set the record straight on technology multiple times. Also, I take on the whole “analog vs. digital” bit (which, in hindsight, I got somewhat wrong)

Predictions – Well, they weren’t really predictions but I do pine for things that eventually came true, like GOG.com and the move to DVD cases for PC games.

Gaming – a whole lot of posts on this blog are about gaming, so these are far from all of the posts on it but the highlights for me are things like when my PC could barely play DOOM 3, the time I got tired of waiting and put my PC games in DVD cases myself, that time I drew a correlation between EA and a bar in College Station, or my explanation of where The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Master Quest came from. Here’s that three part rant on MMO’s I mentioned above. I write PC Gamer Magazine a love letter. I dissect game porting. I postulate on underpopulated games. Finally, I must be a curmudgeon.

Miscellaneous – sometimes my completely random shit posts were the most interesting. Like how I lament the death of the phone book. Or how I over-analyze cola. Then I prattle on about books, bowl games and cars with one headlight.

But my wife’s favorite post of all time, hands down, is this one on Velveeta. Yes, the cheese. I think it was the fact that I referred to a part of the grocery store as a “subset of rows” that really put it over the top for her. I can’t say I blame her.

Anyway this post has been a long time coming. Here’s to hoping WordPress actually makes me post here more often.

I wonder if I’ll still be posting in 2020…