Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of my initial foray into publishing on the World Wide Web.
My first attempt at a website, a horrible mess by my current standards, went live on the 15th of October, 1999. I had zero knowledge of HTML back then (the whole idea of it intimidated me) so I created the site using Frontpage Express. Not only was the markup atrocious, but it looked awful too: bright orange text on a black background. I cringe when I think about it now.
A few months later I redesigned, this time with white Arial text on a teal background (which switched to blue sometime later). It looked classier, certainly — there was definite evidence of a better design sense — but it was still pretty bad.
In mid-2001 grey was my background colour of choice. The site was neat enough and easy to navigate, and looked quite snappy provided one was browsing with Internet Explorer (yes, I was still using Frontpage, unfortunately) but like most homepages there was very little substance to it, save for the diary.
I had started the diary months before, writing enormous long-winded and rambling entries, and only updating on average three times a year (I was that motivated!). It was a heap of steaming self-indulgent crap, to be honest with myself, and I didn’t feel much in the way of sorrow or regret when I eventually removed the diary from the web in the autumn of 2001. Neither did I feel in any great hurry to fill the void.
I had attempted blogging once before, at the end of 2000, prompted by a newspaper fluff piece about the nascent phenomenon. If I had known that Blogger existed back then I might have stuck with it, but instead I had to go with one of the services recommended by the article, Groksoup (which doesn’t even exist anymore). I think I made about three or four posts before I got bored and gave it up. I just didn’t get it; what was the point of making a boring list of websites that virtually no one would see? Who would want to read it? And why would I want to waste my time doing it?
Almost a year later, I got it. I started visiting Mat Honan’s site, which in the spring of 2001 morphed from what would be considered a common-or-garden static homepage into a dynamic cornucopia of information. Before I discovered his weblog I felt that the web was a dead space, that there was nothing new to find. Reading Mat’s various writings removed my blinkers and introduced me to a whole new world, the democratic face of the web. I quickly learned that weblogs weren’t just about boring lists of links, nor were they merely diaryesque spoutings of everyday tedium. Weblogs were — weblogs are — whatever you want them to be.
It was still some time before I decided to jump in the deep end and try it again for myself. I registered with Blogger in October of 2001, set up a weblog as an extension of my old homepage, and made my first posting on the 1st of November. Second time lucky: I caught the blogging bug in an instant. At last, my presence on the web had a purpose. Within a matter of weeks the old homepage was dead, while the weblog became the star attraction. (Meanwhile, on the design front, I ditched Frontpage, learned HTML from scratch and started hand-coding the site. This was a big turning point for me, to be sure.)
And now, here I am. I’ve been keeping this weblog for almost two years now, though it feels a lot longer, and I’ve come a long way. I have a simple, clean and professional-looking design (one that I’m actually happy with!) created by hand with standards-compliant code. I also have a vague idea about where I’m going in terms of the information I contribute to this ‘textual repository’, as the weblog has been so humbly appellated. Plus, I seem to have attracted my fair share of readers who take a peek to see what’s happening every now and again, and I’m ever so grateful for it. (I would like to take this opportunity to extend my most sincere thanks to you for visiting, whomever you are, and hope that I encourage you to return.)
But I don’t do this just to attract an audience. First and foremost, I do this for myself. I do this because I live to think, to contemplate, to philosophise, because I have opinions and I want to share them. I do this because I hunger to write, and the more I write the better I get. I do this because I want to make my mark, however insignificant in the big scheme of things. I do this because I enjoy it, and I’d like others to enjoy it too. I do this because I love it.
I didn’t know when I began this journey four years ago just how much it would mean to me today. I wonder how I’ll feel about it four years from now.