Here we are, once more. Familiar ground. Another long period of neglect and zero writing. Another blog redesign complete. Another chance to reflect on this thing which is now legitimately one of the oldest active (ish) blogs on the internet. I thought it might be fun to do a quick little jaunt across time to see how the design has evolved.
This screenshot (taken from the Wayback Machine) was modified a little to introduce some of the details lost by archiving since images aren’t saved – but it’s pretty true to the first nearly-legible design I created. It came after a year of the worst Xanga-esque nonsense you could imagine. I remember there was one version that had lime green headers on top of a giant 3D-rendered fantasy castle scene. It was grotesque and I wish I had screenshots. But the above design was the first time anybody actually said it looked okay. Specifically, I remember when a friend (Paul) wrote on his blog about what a ridiculous improvement it was, and that seared into my brain that maybe I could make something that looked reasonable.
Eventually, a friend (Benjamin) set up an Apache server running from my computer and suddenly I had the ability to serve images. I went a little nuts with it and decided it was, for some reason, worthwhile to create custom loopy doodle borders that I painstakingly measured pixel-by-pixel and desperately attempted to make consistent with IE6. I even made all those icons myself. It was a terrible experience and it turned me off of changing anything for a really long time because of how much work it had been.
The background here was actually my first foray into GIMP and some of the approaches I would use to make a few pieces of artwork a decade later, which just means splotching color onto a page and running 40 filters sequentially. I remember how much I loved that background, how proud I was that it looped when you scrolled and of its little shiny bumps.
After I dropped out of IC, I had lost a lot of my oomph with writing on my blog. I was confused, depressed, and frequently unemployed. What little urge to write remained was smothered by the knowledge that it was living in the shell of something I made in high school. But roughly after Minecraft came out I had a sort of internal creative awakening that compelled me to make something unique. That was also around the time I completed the switch from Blogger to WordPress and laid to rest the old Apache server nonsense.
I don’t have the earliest versions of this redo, which were not particularly legible as I recall – featuring searing-bright whites on darkest blacks, with a loud orange background similar to 2005’s blue cubes – but that was the first time someone (Daniel) ever told me a website I’d made looked “professional”. And that’s when I started doing website work for my job at the publication office. But that blends more into stories for another time.
Here we are. 2015! The year of the fewest posts of all time! The perfect time to do it all again. This is all just done on top of the base/default 2015 WordPress theme because no way do I have any interest in creating all the responsive design nonsense. I’ve played that game already and I give it zero stars. Of course I did manage to break all of that in the process, but all told it was a lot less work fixing it than trying to create it myself.
This is a color scheme I’ve wanted to employ for eons. Back in 2006 I went through a phase of intense modding with Oblivion, during which I encountered a UI overhaul mod with a wonderful scarlet, gold, and cream palette that I never saw anyone else use much of, and I’ve always loved it. I didn’t have it in mind while I created this, but I realized once I got close to finishing that it was an obvious inspiration lurking way back in the recesses of my mind.
All told, I’m actually pretty thrilled with how this came out. I’d been dissatisfied with the old beach scene for so long – it looked nice, but it was just so clearly flawed, and its legibility was always sub-par. It’s a blog, if it’s not easy to read then the design is a failure, end of story. Plus, I think having done artwork outside the context of web sites freed me from the need to make sure everyone sees some weird illustrative business in the background. It is now possible for me to let the blog be a blog, rather than bear the burden of all of my narcissism.
I had thought, for a while, that I might move on from writing and this blog as a whole. I had switched to using Medium for my long-form posts, but overall that platform has not evolved in directions that are of interest to me. It’s an excellent place for non-writers to publish easily shared, long-form work, but it offers little for anyone that wants precise control over their voice and presentation, and the editor itself remains inferior to WordPress, which at this point is thoroughly fleshed out and polished.
Then, of course, there’s just the raw sentimentality and history of this thing. Twelve years is way too long to walk away from without good cause. Not when I still have so much to write about, not when there’s so much that needs to be written.
Writing does still feel like an obtuse instrument to me. I have a constant flood of thoughts and ideas going on in my head, and converting one sliver of that into a presentable, continuous narrative is excruciating. Extracting thoughts this way can be worse than pulling teeth, just an awfully long, slow, and arduous process wherein I lose perspective and all notions of whether my writing is still coherent, relevant, or useful. I’m not sure that will ever change.
Let me know if anything’s broken or whatnot. Feedback eternally appreciated.