In the nineties I learned how to make web pages. It was easy and exhilarating. It only took me a couple of hours to learn the basics of html and soon I’d hacked something together that I could share with my friends. This was easy too. I’d heard of a website called Geocities and signed up for a free account. In a few minutes I was uploading my wonderful, amateur code to my new web address: www.Geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Venue/6035.

I wish I could show you the kooky, goofy things I made but in the years since then, Geocities was bought by Yahoo! and eventually dissolved into the ether. Good samaritans have salvaged many of the sites once hosted by geocities and archived them at reocities.com. Unfortunately, my site wasn’t (or hasn’t been!) been by these web archaeologists. I’ve checked their listing for the rescued sites in the /SunsetStrip/venue/ neighborhood and couldn’t found 6035. Or, wait, was it 6045? I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten the randomly assigned four digit number at the end of my URL.

It Was All So Simple.

I tinkered with my website for months, not really knowing what use to give it, or what kind of messages it would be possible to extract out of this novel medium.

I wrote adolescent poetry for my friends and grafted it onto my stuffy virtual showcase. I learned that I could implant a tiny snippet of gnarly looking javascript code into my .html files and make every element on the page change colors as the mouse hovered over certain elements on the page. It complemented cringe-inducing rhymes with a full visual assault.

It was like discovering fire.

I wish I still had that tacky experiment.

I moved on to other, shinier parts of the web and that code was lost to the passage of time. It might have been wiped off the server that hosted it. Maybe it waits indefinitely — long term storage on an icy hard drive. It’s not the way I like it but I didn’t know any better so I let my data drift away from me.

We’ve engaged with chat applications and email providers, sometimes for years, before somebody pulls the plug when we’re not watching. Enthralled by their innovative functionality, we don’t ask for guarantees. Before we know it we’ve pour ourselves clean into the work of digital self-expression. Then we start flirting with other websites and those first forays we’d made remain in the back of our minds. Inevitably we abandon our chat histories and email archives when new social networks and email services come along. The day comes when we want to revisit our toy chest. So we go back to those first web applications and discover that the toys from that age of innocence are long gone. Only our faulty memories remain because we didn’t think of ensuring that our data would be kept safe for us.

Twenty years have gone by and I’m dismayed that my data leaves me faster than ever before (now with pictures and status updates). This unacceptable status quo is a key reason for making this website.

The goal isn’t to abandon social networks and popular publishing platforms, but instead to reclaim ownership of our data. Instead of building an unmaintainable and disposable site, I’m building a resilient, flexible, evolving space. We’re building for the future.

Borrowing from Agile methodologies we’ll focus our initial efforts on a Minimally Viable Product from which we can continue to iterate. We’ll bring discussions on design principles to the surface in the earliest stages of development.

The adventure begins here.

  • Secure a modest piece of cyberspace real estate. Don’t get carried away by the metaphor. We need two disparate things: a domain name and a hosting platform.

  • Make a web page to go up at the root of our site, declaring our new site the official hub for our multiple online personas.

Congratulations! Your site is simple enough. Now let’s about sustainable growth and maintainable code.