History of this site

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Origins

I started my first blog as a personal page (using a PowerMac 7600) during a bout of between-job unemployment-itis in 1995.

I have always written and used writing as a way to organize my thoughts and sort of self-therapy: once my thoughts are written down and clarified, I found I could let things go. (I'd written a Martial Arts book 5+ years earlier, and been participating in forums and BBS's since the late 1970's). And I figured i could learn more about the Web and Internet, which I figured were going to be "big". So it was partly a way to learn HTML.

I needed a topic to focus on so it started as a way to debunk "some" of the ignorance [Myths] about Macs and have a few of my favorite Mac Advocacy arguments. This was during the era where Apple was doomed, and many didn't understand computer history, technology, or the flaws in their sides interface, or why many people felt the Mac was "better" (at least at some things). So by doing this, I could have references and links back to the same arguments that kept popping up, without copy/paste or re-typing all the time. Then my anal-organization side kicked in, and with my free time, I started to cover much more. The lesson is -- "don't plant a web site seed, unless you are prepared for that sucker to grow, and consume all free time in its path.

It was the era when the Internet was new and growing, and starving for good content. And the site did pretty good, peaking at 100K visitors a day. I parlayed that into a writing gig for many Mac Magazines (MacWEEK, MacWorld, MacTech, and so on). I was even doing some trades-show speaking and training. But I had long since been re-employed as my day-job as Software Engineer, Manager, and/or Software Architect. Apple had started thriving with the iMac and iPod -- and needed less advocacy. And the return of Steve Jobs had shifted Apple from being User Interface centric, to Design centric. My passion was the former (I had a lot of Human Interface background). Plus, I was getting less enamored of my audience. So I was preparing a shift.

UI vs. Design: User Interface (or Human Interface), is all about usability, predictability and consistency (ease of use). Design is about aesthetics. Contrary to popular opinion, Steve Jobs was NOT a UI guy (which is in the details), he was about design, product and an incredible pitchman. A simple example I use of the difference is Human Interface cares about things like information density and not wasting space, while design is often about whitespace. Or just the difference between small but recognizable icons (with abstract/cartoon representations), and using them for "nouns" (objects) to be moved around: that's UI. Whereas bigger icons, that are skeuomorphic (look like a real nob, or something in the real world), that's used for "verbs" (actions) and controls (but waste space over menus or simpler controls), that's more design. Both have value, but the New Apple (after NeXT had acquired them), did a LOT of things better than the old Apple: competent management, better business/product sense, better marketing, and even the foundation and design of the technologies (NeXTSTEP which became OSX), was better. But the implementation, quality control, documentation, support, communication, and User Interface, was getting worse. It was still better than Windows, and that shift worked well enough that sales advantage made up for the quality losses -- but who wants to cheerlead, "not as good as it could be, but better than the competition!" So I lost a lot of my advocacy motivation.

Fan is short for fanatic: The site had been partly tutorial (teaching people about technology) and part advocacy. But I had a fanbase, and a lot of "my" advocates weren't very balanced or informed beyond what I wrote. The barbs I put in, would get turned into vicious personal attacks. The other side wasn't listening and doing the same back. My side would take a mild correction I made, and turn it into such an overcorrection, that it wasn't true and was wrong in the other extreme. The Mac Fanboys had turned from defending their platform, into holy crusaders. This was my space for cathartic rants, fire-and-forget... I didn't want a troll-army telling me how great I was, or who would attack any who I focused my "corrections" on. I hate bullies and didn't want to become one, and I can fight my own battles -- I didn't want henchman, who I couldn't restrain, doing things in my name.

iGeek = website 2.0

So I bought this domain (for a couple hundred dollars), and sold the old site for a few thousand dollars, and started a new site (this one), around 2001. I was going to cut way back on the advocacy, focus more on the teaching/tutorial side. But life was sort of conspiring against that.

I was doing jobs that had me "disclosed" on things that were coming in the tech industry and knew too much and was too NDA'd to write about it. So While I was still a futurist and a technologist, I could only share behind the safety of a corporate firewall. I was pretty constrained not only by legal agreements, but by personal ethics to not cross lines. But not being able to tell the who/what/why, and having neat data-points that would explain my reasoning, but I couldn't write about, was making tech writing (for public consumption), a bit miserable. I could have done pure tutorial writing, but I had enough work to do. So let a lot of my freelance writing for magazines and stuff go.

I had always been a history, current event and politics buff, and wasn't afraid to let that leak in. And this was the era of 9/11, the Iraq War. So there was plenty of other things to write about. My professional and writing separated a lot. So while I still wrote about tech -- I went from Tech with a bit of politics, to politics with a bit of Tech.

Speaking of Tech: the tech behind this site evolved, a lot. Here's that evolution:
  • original sites in straight HTML I wrote myself
  • When I moved to iGeek, I wrote my own CMS (Content Management System). The first one was in WebObjects, an Apple Framework. But while WO (WebObjects) was a pretty good Application Framework, it had "issues".

    I had written one of the largest solutions that used it, for a startup (PowerSchool) that I was the second engineers for, I was getting kind of tired of Apple's slipshod quality control and support. I was really frustrated with them breaking me, or making me have to rewrite things every year or two, because they couldn't design in forward compatibility. WO was also a great solution for enterprises, if your enterprise had a lot of strong Application developers that new ObjectiveC or Java, but it was too heavy weight, complex, and had gaping functionality holes for some things, and didn't scale as well as it should for others. It was also a pain-in-the-ass to host.
  • So I threw it all away, and rewrote it (and a Newspaper solution) in PHP. Twice. This worked great for the newspaper that was doing dozens of mini-sites for others. But HTML technologies kept changing.
    • The first one I wrote was database (MySQL) driven -- but I needed something simpler to setup and deploy.
    • So I rewrote the back-end to be file driven and very modular and simple. I could bring up an entire functional site in a few hours and teach others too as well.
  • After 5 years, I left the Newspaper, and moved on. While my code had a brilliant architecture for what it was designed for, I just didn't want to maintain the HTML and template side of things (the technology kept changing, and I didn't need to maintain it any more)-- so I went with an off-the-shelf solution called WordPress. WordPress works, and I could focus on the writing instead of the software, but I hated its architecture and features. I wasn't a simple journal style blog, I was more a reference and information retrieval solution that had much better navigation, search and interlinking. And I couldn't find a really good solution.
  • Then I found MediaWiki -- which is the engine behind Wikipedia. Architecture is brilliant. Brilliantly easy to maintain the content (using markup). Features are what I needed. Design is overly-complex, but mostly understandable. Documentation, Support and Deployment is torture. With enough time and effort, I can make it do whatever I want. But it takes way longer than it should, and it isn't popular enough that you can get questions answered, or hire people to help easily. But being able to do some semi-structured content, something called transclusion (articles can be made from parts of other articles), and the reference-material centric model, all fit with what I needed. So I've been using it for years.


Written: 1997.07.06 • Edited: 2018.07.04