Revamp 2023

19 February 2023

I started this website up in 2001, and at that point I junked everything I’d had on my previous personal websites. And my very first post said I wasn’t going to junk things again. The plan was just to date things, and move on.

I’ve been tempted to junk things several times. It would certainly be easier to. But I like the history of myself I find here. I doubt that I agree with everything I’ve ever written but that’s how personal development goes.

I’m quite proud of having kept a record of every book I’ve read since 2000. If I hadn’t done that I don’t think I’d have realised how up and down the years have been. I started keeping the record just for myself, then I belonged to a book group mailing list for a while where posting monthly reading roundups was a thing and I started to write a bit about each book. Eventually I came across goodreads, LibraryThing, Litsy and now StoryGraph, and I’ve shared my thoughts in each of those places, and I plan to carry on using StoryGraph for a while at least. But I wanted the my primary record to be here in my own space.

Initially I wrote all the site code myself and then I used Blogger for the backend. In 2006 I moved the website to WordPress and although I still think WordPress is a great bit of software I’ve rather had enough of it and my site has been giving me more headaches lately, and my host has been very slow. I wanted the site to feel like my own again. It has been time for a change.

In the early years I posted links to the site more days than not. When I got back into it after my kid was born in 2005, things had moved on and I imported posts every day from things I was doing elsewhere on the web. I’ve imported stuff from GoogleReader (much missed, rest in peace), Flickr (still going, looking good again btw), delicious (where did all the dots go?), Twitter (rest in peace? hopefully turning in it’s grave soon) and lots more. I haven’t managed to preserve all the posts from those services on this version of the site. Maybe some of them will be back. More recently I tried to set up a system for sharing quick links here but I haven’t really made it work. Quickly sharing something fun is something social media is good for. Writing longer stuff, and being ridiculously introspective, obscure or technical are better on your own website though. And I want to get back to doing more of that, because I miss it.

I decided it was time to learn something new (my original tagline for the site was “you learn something new every day”, a sentiment I’m still very keen on) and have moved the site to using Astro. I’m not quite sure why I picked it up a few weeks ago but I like it and I’ve enjoyed extracting my data from WordPress and moving it into a static file format. I used to think everything would be better if it was in a database. I’ve put together enough over-engineered databases and convoluted SQL queries that I’m not so sure anymore.

Some choices I made:

  • 💬there are no comments here. I’ve had some nice comments over the years, but in among an absolute shed load of spam. WordPress’s spam catching is good but I don’t think asking my website to be hit by spam bots all the time makes any sense. If you want to comment on something I’ve said then my email address is decipherable in the footer and I’d be happy to hear from you there, or on one of the social networks I’ve listed there too.
  • ⏩the site’s entirely static and should be fast. My old WordPress site crawled and it annoyed me.
  • ✍️the design is all hand coded by me. I am not a designer, and I know it could be better, but that would be less interesting for me. The headline font is a bit loopy, but it feels right for a personal site, I’m not pretending to be a professional here (I do that elsewhere).
  • 🌌there isn’t a dark mode yet. I like dark mode so it should be here Soon™️
  • 🙄there are emojis all over the shop, and they might look rubbish in your browser. I’m not going to go all “Best viewed in Netscape Navigator” on you, but sorry if they look a bit odd. I’d say that I don’t know how we survived before emojis, except we did quite well with smilies :D, what we did before that is beyond me though.

Some things I changed:

  • 😔Lots of old posts and pages have gone astray. Most of them were things that I thought worked and actually didn’t though, so they didn’t really just go astray. I doubt that any of them were important. I may try to recover some of them.
  • 💔I’ve probably broken some links. But I have tried to keep old permalinks intact as much as I could.
  • 📗I wanted there to be more book cover images to liven up the book pages a bit. I’ve only added them to the WordPress posts recently. I used isbndb and the Open Library Book Covers Repository to download covers for older books. It might have been a mistake to start doing this but I’m sticking with what it’s come up with. Some of them are hilariously wrong though and checking over 1200+ of them though is infeasible. I guess I’ll get to them in time.
  • 🏛️I’ve tried to make better archives than I had before. Just so I can find things myself. My category pages for the weblog are stupidly nonsense though, at some point tags and categories have got confused and things have gone weird. I definitely plan to sort the nonsense out there in the near future.
  • 🔍Oh, and there’s no search for now either. Because I made the site static. It is possible to make it searchable, but I’m not bothering for now. And I think better archives are a better long term answer than full text search.

That’s about it for now. As ever, I’m launching this before it’s ready, because things are otherwise never ready. (I think there are still duplicate books, and books I read in 1970 (before I was born) but they’ll vanish in time.)