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◷ 5 min read - Jun 2, 2020

Hello Again, World

About a year ago I shut down my personal homepage because it didn't seem to serve a purpose anymore. Frequently having to update the CMS it was running on no longer seemed worth the effort. Initially, I planned on hardcoding a static site, but I soon realized that I couldn't bear all the code duplication involved. So I began working on a minimal dynamic site. Then I reflected on why I was running the site to begin with. Its original purpose was to serve as a digital business card for my academic career (see my first hello world post from 2010), and it served that purpose well, except by 2019 I hadn't been in academia for 8 years. Having to take care of three other sites related to my professional life as a meditation teacher, I decided to scrap this one.

I recently stumbled upon Parimal Satyal's blog post titled Rediscovering the Small Web. "Small Web" is the collective term he uses for all the independent, personal websites across the Web where people share what matters to them and express themselves. Sites like these used to be the norm before capitalistic greed took over the Web. Their defining features, to me, are a personal touch, creative design and no financial interest. Having grown up with the Web of the late 90s and early 2000s, I share Parimal's nostalgia. Today, when I read an article on someone's blog I found via a search engine, it is almost always leading up to a sales pitch, and the contents are often badly researched. The space around the actual text is usually riddled with ads and other garbage. You can tell that the purpose of such articles is not to share information the author cares about, but to get your money. It's called "Content Marketing". Running part of my business online myself, I get it. I too have written articles that contained sales pitches because it seemed like a win-win. I would share relevant information and at the same time gain customers. However, I quickly realized that I would run out of topics I cared to write about. That is when I shut down the blogs on my websites. Their very nature pressured me to release more content than I cared to create (this goes even more so for social media, where I deleted all my business accounts). I know I'm not alone because there are now companies that offer to write your articles for you. That is surely part of the reason the modern Web seems so utterly uninspired. For many more interesting observations about the classic and the modern Web, see Parimal's excellent blog post linked above.

It was that post that inspired me to revive my personal homepage. I knew I could code it myself within a matter of days and I would enjoy a virtual space where I could express myself artistically. Yeah, I could post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other of these walled gardens, but the missions of these sites are to addict you so that they can shove more ads in your face and earn more money doing so. I'd rather nobody sees my content than be part of that problem. And being able to code meant I could actually be part of the solution.

You are looking at a website coded from scratch. The post you are reading exists as an actual file. There is no database powering this site. Since, as I said, I have a problem with duplicating lots of code, this file contains only the actually content as HTML, plus some configuration as needed. This file is then picked up by a PHP script, completed and stored in a page cache, so that the site remains snappy when someone hosting on the same machine as me decides to run a resource hungry task. Debugging rewrite rules is a pain in the ass, but everything seems to be working now.

To design my new homepage I just allowed my preferences for colors and style to bubble up from the bottom of my heart. For my professional sites I rarely use dark themes or bright colors and I surely don't use monospace fonts. I remember turquoise and violet being my favorite colors as a child, so I just went for it. It's a work of art and I just love looking at it. I even made the source code pretty, contrasting the fugly HTML of most modern websites. Despite my nostalgia for the old Web, you won't find any animated gifs here. I already hated these little attention grabbers back when they were fashionable. Designing a website as an expression of your sense of beauty is so much more satisfying than always keeping in mind how your potential customers or search engines might react to it. I did some search engine optimization, mostly because the site is bilingual and the blog contains posts in both languages, which would quickly lead to duplicate content issues if left unchecked.

I have deleted most of my old posts because they no longer seemed relevant. I did keep and updated a couple of the more elaborate ones, and of course the initial hello world post from when I first started my blog 10 years ago. I wish I had screenshots from the websites I created as a teenager, but I couldn't find any. I do, however, have screenshots from my old blog designs for you.

The first design of my personal homepage
This is what my blog looked like from 2010 to 2011 before I gave it what I perceived to be a more polished look. It ran on Drupal. The artwork you see there I created with EvoPaint, a pixel-based multi-agent and cellular automaton simulator blended with a painting program. It was a software project for my bachelor's degree.
The first design of my personal homepage
This was my blog's design from late 2011 through 2019. It ran on WordPress. Isn't it striking how all the designs of my personal homepage feature my favorite two colors from back when I was a child? I guess some things never change.

I don't know yet what I'll be writing about, or if I'll be writing at all. I know from time to time something comes to mind. However, often that's when I feel mistreated by a company, disagree with the political Zeitgeist, or when I'm dealing with a sensitive issue in my life. I probably won't write about such topics too much because, being the highly sensitive person that I am, I know it would be difficult for me to deal with the shitstorm that may follow. We'll see where this goes. The good thing is, it doesn't *have* to go anywhere. I don't *have* to post anything. There is no outside pressure, no ulterior motives. The only extrinsic motivation I receive is when I look at the visitor count. I hope that whenever I share something here, I do it because of who I am, not because of what I want. In my humble opinion, that's the only good reason to do anything.

Anyway, welcome to my excellent homepage, thanks for reading this excellent post and have an excellent day!