Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger did a recent series on If I had to Start My Blog Again
Well, I have reinvented my web site a few times, and sometimes the changes
have been radical and deep - it may as well have been starting over.
I started this website in the early 90's. It was a "personal" page
under my account at Software Tool and Die. Although I did make some non-business related
pages, most of it was Unix technical articles. In 1997, I registered aplawrence.com and set up
a new website on a vhost at what is now Interland. I transferred
my files from the old personal site and began a more heavy concentration
on technical articles.
The primary reason for the move to Interland was because I was running into
the limitations of static HTML pages. The Software Tool and Die set up
could give me cgi capability, but not SSI (server side includes). I
needed those to get the features I wanted in my pages, so I switched.
Because I was familiar with Perl, and because Perl was the most
used language for cgi at that time, I used Perl routines for the SSI.
That's the first thing I would change if starting over: I'd
use PHP instead of Perl. Perl is so deeply embedded in my site
infrastructure now that it would be tremendous work to change, but if
I were to start over fresh, I would start with PHP.
As the site grew, I ran into problems. I'd want
to add new features, but then I'd have to go back to the old
pages and implement the changes. I'd of course write scripts to
do that, but sometimes I wanted the new features in specific
locations, and it was hard to write scripts that always made
correct changes. I also wanted to make format changes - some
of that could be accomplished with style sheets, but not always,
so once again I had to make hand edits.
That led me to separating content from presentation. My
"pages" now are text files containing only the html and text
relevant to the content. The rest of the page (headers, sidebars, footers,
comments, related links and advertising) is all supplied by
one script that reads the text and outputs it with everything
Making that change and retroactively applying it to old content
was a big job and it's actually not 100% complete - I still have
a few pages that aren't in the new format yet. If I were
starting over from scratch, that's the very first thing I would
If I had the benefit of foresight, I also would have implemented
a tighter copyright policy immediately. I believe in sharing, but
I naively thought that people might pick up an article or two now
and then. I didn't expect that anyone would just wholesale
copy every article on my site. My present policy limits that
activity by restricting copying to six articles per year, but
a lot of articles were taken before I changed to that.
Finally, there is another thing I still struggle with, and that's the
matter of content subjects. I tend to cluster around specific areas,
but these are different enough that the website is not as tightly
focused as I'd like. On the other hand, I really don't
want to split off into separate websites - I tried that, and just did
not like it. I'm still a bit ambivalent though and am not
certain I'm doing the right thing. If I were starting over, I'm
really not sure what I'd do in this area.
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