About This Site

A Brief History

vh32This is the latest incarnation of my internet presence. I started back in the mid-1990s with a static website, hand-crafted in HTML 3.2 and hosted on my personal computer. The URL for the website was the address of my dialup (!) connection – from memory it was something like this:

http://stoowert.dialup.student.uwa.edu.au/~stoowert/

ras3It was, of course, only available when my computer was connected via dialup. I would arrange with my friends to make sure my internet was connected at certain times so they could see the site. Surely it was a novelty, but it was a beginning.

Later at uni I had a more permanent home on the web as part of my research lab — that site was at http://ciips.ee.uwa.edu.au/~johnsons/. The pinnacle for that site was a set of scripts I wrote that would take photos from the webcam in the lab, compile them each day into a time-lapse video of the day, and then host it on my site.

I’ve been through just about every self-hosted blogging engine and blogging service at some stage since then, but that never lasted more than a year or so in any incarnation. I think the problem is that I was never particularly certain of my audience – I was writing and posting photos for my local and remote friends, but also conscious of a lurking audience of random strangers. It’s been a long learning curve.

Today

I’m more clear on my audience now. I host this site mostly to share my various projects so that I may inspire, entertain, and frighten others. I also post the occasional thought that I find worthy of public consumption, though there aren’t many of those.

As much as I don’t like being there, I use Facebook to share personal photos and thoughts with family and friends, mostly those who’re distant. As a result, most of my Facebook posts are to Friends-only or Close Friends-only, and I tend not to ‘friend’ most people. My basic heuristic is that if you’ve never been to my house for a beer then you’re unlikely to make it on my friends list.

I speak only for myself on this site – I don’t expect there’s anything controversial, but it is clearly my own personal view and does not reflect the view of my employer or anyone else with whom I have an association.

Commenting

I remember a time before spam
I remember a time before spam

I’ve really gone back-and-forth on comments. My first few sites were hand-crafted and static and had no commenting, so most of my interaction with the public was through emails. Once I started using content engines (MovableType, WordPress, Textpattern) I was able to receive comments and trackbacks, and at first that was great. I lived through that initial rise of comment spam, but eventually disabled all comments and trackbacks when it just got too much. I look back now at the Comment Spam Manifesto from 2003, and it seems so quaint and naïve.

I’m back to trying out comments again now for this current version of the site, because it seems the arsenal of defence technologies have become sufficiently strong and easy to manage. I enjoy the feedback and interaction, but if it gets to be too much maintenance effort again I’ve no qualms about turning them off again.

Speaking of spam: it seems weird now, but I remember a time before spam. When I got my first email address back in the early 90s, the mail server at my university had a completely open sendmail port. We used to prank each other all the time by telnetting to port 25 and faking the From: address because you could type in whatever you wanted. If that port was open today on a university mail server it would be absolutely hammered with spam!

Technologies

The latest incarnation of this site uses WordPress.

Prior to this version, I was maintaining my site using static markdown files and the middleman ruby gem to translate them into a static set of HTML files that I hosted on Amazon S3. That setup was fantastic in terms of it’s simplicity, but I found that I wanted to be able to quickly post updates from my iPhone and iPad and it was too much work to do that quickly. With WordPress I’ve got a few options for mobile updates (e.g.: the WordPress app, post-by-email and loading the admin interface in Safari) so it’s working out much better. I also maintain three other sites in WordPress (Hillsmeade Primary School, Marri Australian Mists and Jodi’s Happy Hounds) on the same host (a virtual host with linode) so it’s nice to have everything done the same way.