A home page author's progress

I was rather surprised to find that the Wayback Machine has copies of the home page I set up when I was 14. I'm not sure how it could even find it, something must have had a link to it for this to happen, and I have no idea who might want to link to it. Regardless, it made me realize that it's been over a decade of online presence for me.

It's an interesting and still largely unexplored social implication of the Internet, the digital trail you leave behind you that is public and undeniable. I'm quite lucky that really stupid things I've done online when I was in my teens didn't leave a permanent evidence, not least because they mostly happened on the IRC, while on my home page I mostly kept things I wouldn't be ashamed to share with anyone.

This is also an interesting implication of personal web sites, to me anyway, and perhaps one of the reasons so many home pages had so little content (other than author's laziness). If it's going to stay there accessible for a long time, and you need to think where it fits in its structure, the value threshold gets higher. In social networks where a post will sink lower than the immediately visible part of the feed quickly and that often do not even have decent archive search functionality, the inhibition is way lower. Not that there's anything wrong with it, perhaps there's place for pictures of one's lunch too, but sometimes it's worth it to stop and think what's really important and what is not.

Frankly, I feel a bit guilty for adding this strictly personal stuff that is of little value for anyone who doesn't suffer from unhealthy interest in someone else's life. I've been trying hard to redeem the concept of a home page and populate it with stuff that is actually useful for the visitors. But, on the other hand it's a personal account of someone who got started with web just before the web 2.0 really took off, so I'll leave it here.

2004 – 2005

Website screenshot from 2004

I was (un)lucky enough to catch the tail end of the web 1.0 era, when web page layout was controlled by invisible tables and spacer GIFs,

The first incarnation of my homepage was more about learning how to write web pages than anything else, and it hardly had any useful content. It's not to say it was entirely devoid of content like so many personal web pages around the net, there were science olympiad problems and papers by the aspiring researcher, but I doubt it was useful for anyone else. You never know, of course. It also did have that distinctive feel of a 15 year old geek's web site, which is not surprising.

From the web technology point of view, it was a pretty typical web 1.0 page, with tables and inline color/bgcolor attributes, spiced up with some purely decorative CSS. To my credit, I avoided most of the web 1.0 original sins such as absurd background images, bright color, animated GIFs and so on; as you can see, it did have silly banners though. But hey, it was 2004 and you still could not count on proper CSS support in viewer's web browser, and tableless layout still wasn't a common knowledge.

The server side was a bunch of PHP scripts that generated the menus from arrays and assembled pages by simple require() calls, without a proper template engine, but template engines weren't exactly common either. At the time simply having a dynamically generated website could raise your street cred a bit, among the geeks anyway; it didn't use the cutting edge technology of the time, but it wasn't as backwards as it may seem now.

Web hosting with script execution or database support was also quite expensive at the time, so were second level domains, totally out of reach for a poor high school student. That web page used a third level geographical domain that was free to register if you had means to host the zone, and my friend who worked as a system administrator at a college and could use its resources within reason provided me with the hosting and the DNS. He was also the person who introduced me to Linux and web programming and generally shared a lot of computer knowledge with me. Later in my life I became a person who provided my friends with free hosting and support, so it came to a full circle in a sense.

2005 – 2007

Website screenshot from 2006

The second incarnation had a bit more educational content. From the technical point of view, it was a curious mix of the old and the new approach: it still used tables for layout, but all visual style was defined in CSS. I believe it was due to browser compatibility concerns (IE6 was still common!), and I seem to recall I took pride in good cross-browser compatibility, and standards-compliant HTML and CSS for that matter. That said, it was the last table-based website I ever made, in the mid-2000's web browsers without proper CSS support pretty much went extinct and it became a non-issue.

Around that time I became a huge fan of XML in general and XHTML in particular, so it was using a perfectly valid XHTML 1.0 Strict. I'm still quite disappointed that HTML5 makes XHTML5 specification optional rather than mandatory, and doesn't provide either DTD or XML schema. They go as far as to claim that their validator application is a proper substitute for a machine-readable specification, which is nonsense.

The doodles that I drew specially for it, sadly, got lost over time. They were rather badly drawn but I still think they were kinda fitting.

The server side almost didn't change compared to the previous version. What I'm still wondering about though: why no one thought of static website generators at the time?

2010 – 2012

Website screenshot from 2010

In 2009 I finally registered the baturin.org domain, but for a while it's been pointing to my blog on Blogger, until I got dissatisfied with Blogger for reasons I can't remember. In 2010 my friend offered me to trade a free VPS for help with his network, so I decided to go back to hosting the website myself, but keep the tech blog format, mostly focused on Vyatta and networking in general. That was also the point when I switched to writing in English instead of my native Russian, to practice my English first, and to share it with people from different countries I've met on the net second.

I used Textpattern for it, for a while it's been my absolute favorite CMS that I used myself and helped my friends make websites with it. I still think it's a pretty nice CMS with a lightweight and no-nonsense approach. Before that my go to CMS was Drupal, but at some point I got disappointed by it becoming more and more heavyweight and messy (they mostly fixed it since then).

2012 – 2015

Website screenshot from 2012

I don't remember what prompted me to dismantle the Textpattern blog and replace it with a single page stub. I do remember that I've been using my blog on Tumblr as a primary platform though. By now a tech blog on Tumblr sounds quite strange, but I still think at the time Tumblr was quite a good idea, if only it didn't get that unfriendly to technically-minded people.

2015 – ...

Well, that's what you are looking at. The amount of stuff that had to go somewhere but could not be added to a third party web service because it needed support for custom HTML and JS, like the iproute2 cheatsheet has been growing, so I kept adding new links to that single page stub, and at some point I thought I may as well want to make a full-grown personal website again, and here I am.

It uses a home-grown website generator, because there are already so many of them that it's easier to make a new one than to choose. The other reason is that, sadly, almost all of them are using markdown or similar limited and poorly specified markup syntax that is not that simpler or more intuitive than actual HTML, but makes it harder to use full capabilities of HTML, and completely ignores the semantics of the elements. This is an abstraction so leaky that it simply shouldn't be there.

This page was last modified: 2017 July 31