iN8sWoRLd History

A changelog of sorts

This history follows the introduction on the About page.

Changing how I was writing necessitated a change in what I was writing, or at least it brought about a greater cautiousness in topic selection. I decided that writing about my employer, or my personal family life was probably not a very good idea since there was no real way to know who might be reading what I wrote. This means that a lot of what I write is no longer a 'journal' in the original sense (to me). I now write about things I am interested in at the time, things I've found on the internet, events, etc. and I have a sort of unwritten rule to to try to keep in mind that I am publishing to the whole world, which certainly includes employers and family members. There is a bit of political and religious commentary here, so be warned.

For a time after starting to put stuff online, I actually did start keeping a digital version of a real journal in the computer (think Doogie Houser, MD) but because I have a tendency to change operating systems quite frequently, I chose to keep this in a simple text file which eventually grew huge and unwieldy. My first online journal entries were basically just selections of this text formatted with HTML (by hand in a text editor).

This became tiresome, and I stopped publishing online for a while.
For several years I kept the journal up on my m500 palm pilot (using Wordsmith), but when that died unexpectantly (do they ever die expectantly?), I realized I was lucky to have kept good backups of it and wouldn't trust a handheld again for my personal journal.

My first attempts at a more automated system to maintain my huge number of text file entries were very frustrating. I didn't really have a strong enough background in any scripting language to do anything useful on my own, so I started looking around for something already written that I could use to publish online. At the time, web forums were getting very popular so I decided to try using Yabb (Yet another bulletin board). It was fairly easy to set up, and I learned a lot about scripting getting it running. It was written in Perl though which, even after several years of mucking around trying to learn it, I still find incredibly obtuse. I started looking for something that would allow me to bust out of the forum model when I realized that there really wasn't going to be much use for one anyway - I was writing things and my friends, though they might be reading them, didn't find it necessary to post responses and well, that's the point of a bulletin board: threaded conversations. I wanted something that I could use to post text, and that would stand on it's own without needing to have responses tacked on to the posts to seem relevant.

Blosxsom (link now dead as of 2014) seemed like it might be perfect, though it was also written in perl, and I was able to simply upload a mess of text files into a hierarchical directory structure and the script just built a website out of it! This seemed like the perfect solution, but there were a lot of limitations, including a limited number of 'plugins' and the fact I couldn't easily change the way the site worked (due to my own ineptitude with perl). I used blosxom until 2018 to arrange a lot of detritus on my hard drive which I would probably never even look at again otherwise. The text files were rsynced to the web for easy reference and available at in8notes (now only runs locally).

Geeklog looked really cool, but I was intimidated by PHP which was another language I didn't know, but I slowly came up to speed enough to get it running. I eventually used Geeklog for many years, and still use it for other sites I run, but maintaining this huge (and powerful) CMS system for a simple blog turned out, for me, to be a bit of overkill.

This site was then powered by Wordpress for many years.
Luckily I found a really helpful geeklog importer script which managed to bring in the entire site without much of a hitch. I did have to restore a copy of the GL database into the Wordpress database first since I couldn't get it to import from a separate database (I'm sure someone smart could figure it out).
I was able to easily find many different Wordpress plugins that provide nifty functionality for this site (I'll eventually list all of these here) which I either had already implemented in Geeklog, or wished I could.

Wordpress was great. I reimplemented it several times and designed new themes and moved widgets around and added feeds from various other sites. It was a powerful relational database of information which could be sliced and diced a zillion ways. It was also a huge pain in the ass. Constantly worrying about updating Wordpress (to say nothing of the many plugins I used over time) became much more of a hassle than I was interested in dealing with. I wanted to just write again.

I really missed the simplicity of Blosxsom but I wanted something written in PHP (or at least... not Perl) and if possible I'd like it to be able to parse markdown. I wanted to get back to simple text again and possibly just use git to publish updates to it. A bunch of text files with updates pushed live whenever I wanted without having to log in and maintain some behemoth software. This led me to testing out a bunch of different approaches: Jeckyl and Grav among them. Grav was close to what I wanted but still too much work.

When I found PicoCMS I was initially put off by what appeared to be spartan documentation (basically just a readme.md in the github project) and its general functional limitations (without a database a lot of stuff I'd been using would need to be re-thought) - but I soon realized that these weren't really limitations at all - it was FREEDOM! The documentation is sufficient to get the code running and it turns out a lot of that extra relational database stuff was just overhead and not really important to my core mission which is writing.

The things that a database offered included search, grouping like posts or providing a means to offer a similar post to the reader through the use of keywords or tags associated with the post. These are things which make it easier for readers of the site to find more things I've written that they might enjoy, but it doesn't help me write anything new.

We'll see what happens here of course, but for now (2018) I'm at least partially moved in and running a flat file site with no database.