Decade of Difference

Surprisingly, my WorldTimZone personal website has been in operation for at least seventeen years. Over the past decade, various web pages on the site have been added and tweaked, but the blog has been dormant. In part that’s due to time constraints and focus elsewhere — what is a personal website all about, anyway? — but also due to technical issues.

This site began like much of the early World Wide Web as a collection of basic web pages hand-coded in HTML. In those days we simply called them “websites” and they were personal, quirky, delightful, and unique. People everywhere were creating “firsts”: these were the days where nothing was on the Web and people were creating wonderous new websites about things important and trivial.

In those early days, people tried to guide others to additions and improvements to their sites be adding “New” or “Updated” tags or special “What’s New” pages, but this felt superfluous on a Web where everything was always changing and continually being updated 1. Plus, this quickly became a maintenance burden for hand-coded pages, especially as the websites grew in scope and size.

And then came the blog (short for web-log) and turned everything upside down. I mean that almost literally: at the start, blogs primarily were about update posts linked and shown on a reverse chronological timeline page. “Newest on top”.

The other main attraction of blog software was that it took away the maintenance burden. Instead of hand-coding the HTML pages, the software would manage a database of information and dynamically build the web pages while handling all the linking and relevant updates across the website.

Like many, I was enticed by the blog and threw out my homegrown pages and incorporated blog software into my website sometime in 2001. I started with b2/cafelog and added a blog section to my site. B2 was fairly simple and was the most usable blog software that I found. I also appreciated that it was Free Software licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). It wasn’t until a year or so later that I realized how much this mattered.

Somewhat abruptly the creator of b2 disappeared and there was a scramble to figure out how to keep fixing and improving it. A number of groups took the b2 software and created their own versions (forks). I evaluated several and liked some of the ideas in b2evolution, but the one that most attracted me was WordPress. From the start, WordPress strongly emphasized usability. I resonated with this focus and was happy when it was the named the official successor to b2 2.

Since I’m a programmer, and because the blog software wasn’t overly complicated, I was able to mash the early version of WordPress into my site’s existing b2/cafelog software to create a wicked WordPress/b2 hybrid/variant, giving me the best of both worlds. 3 WordPress countinued development and improvements and I eventually upgraded the site to WordPress version 1.2 (more or less).

Due to transferring hosting providers, database configuration changes, and some vaguely rememebered challenge I had upgrading my WordPress variation, my blog got stuck on WordPress 1.2 and time slipped by. I’m honestly shocked that it was still working (albeit was throwing PHP warnings into the logs). The only plugin I’d been using at the time was MarkDown 1.0b4. PHP compatibility kept it mostly working and I know I rewrote some of the WordPress internals (and disabled others) to stay functional. I finallly got around to upgrading and reconfiguring the site to use the current WordPress 4.9.1. Counting all releases (regular, maintenance, and security fixes) in between, this is jump of 280 WordPress releases! If you only count the major point releases, this is 30 releases later. Either way you count it, it’s a big upgrade.

  1. In those early days websites included obligatory Under Construction notices to inform the reader that the site wasn’t “Done”. Now it is assumed. 

  2. The 60 second guide to b2/cafelog tells more about b2 and the start of WordPress. 

  3. Or so I thought. I was primarily focused on usability. I suspect that I included minor usability refinements from b2evolution as well.