Showing all posts tagged: history

Sometimes my personal website looks like a bad photo of me

17 July 2024

Stefan Bohacek writing on his Mastodon page:

The problem with redesigning your personal website is that it looks great for about a week, and then you start to hate it.

This is a problem of the ages. In the late 1990’s I’d redesign my websites (I had several back then) every few weeks. Or what felt like every few weeks. The need to constantly update came from the desire to look as good as the other ever-changing personal sites that were around then.

It was also necessary — you understand — to be up with the absolute latest design trends, and apply our own interpretations and variations of them to our websites.

For instance, does anyone remember, or know of, TV lines? See an example here (not my work). TV lines became de rigueur with fad-like ferocity in late 1999 I think. If you didn’t feature at least a few images with TV lines, you were no longer with the times, you were w-a-y behind them.

The notion that a website should be redesigned about every six months began to emerge, perhaps, in early 2000. The idea being some consistency in appearance was desirable, while not lasting forever. It also, mercifully, gave us time to focus on other things. Non web things, among them.

Today, the design of disassociated has barely changed in years. It’s been in a single column “note pad” format since, I don’t know 2009/2010? The “d” logo came along in around 2013. It changes colour now and then. I call the current inception the “fruit salad” logo. It’s been here for two years.

The overall site design feels a bit bare sometimes, but I like to keep things on the minimal side. Pictures — when I post them — are meant to stand out, and not be swallowed up by the design. Otherwise though, I don’t have much time presently to think about whether I like the look or not. It’s a bit busy elsewhere right now, and writing posts is really my main priority.


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Spellcheck, autocorrect: the end of Notepad as a simple text editor

11 July 2024

Let’s go back in time. Way back in time.

To about this time in 2000. I had, or was just about, to start my first job as a web designer, at an exciting, multidisciplinary design studio, on Sydney’s trendy urban fringe. Ok: Surry Hills. I’m pleased to say I was headhunted into the role, thanks largely to the then inception of disassociated.

My job title was “coder/designer”, and I still have a copy of my business card somewhere. I was given a large box of them at the time, and asked by one of the directors to distribute them at will. At parties, at the pub, on the bus. Everywhere. To spread word of the studio, of course.

When I went into a meeting to discuss the role, I said I wanted to work to web standards with the HTML I would be coding/marking-up. One of the people sitting in on the meeting, who worked in the development arm of the agency, and whom I’d meet previously through local web design/personal website circles, shook his head at me.

He was on the same page: he too wanted to work with standards, but many projects of the day precluded their use. “Ok,” I said, “In that case, I only want to use Notepad for the code/markup I’ll be writing.” I said that because I didn’t want a bar of the bloated, ineffectual, WYSIWYG web design editors that were then available. Fun fact: I still don’t; I never have.

To that, they agreed. Notepad is one of the few Microsoft (MS) products I really like, and will miss on Linux. It has come bundled with Windows Operating Systems since 1983, and has remained little changed. I coded my first websites in Notepad, and built the WordPress theme you’re looking at now, in Notepad. That’s because Notepad is (was) a simple text editor. Notepad gave it to you as it was.

It doesn’t (didn’t) attempt to autocorrect or spellcheck your work. Imagine trying to markup a webpage, and have the app tell you the <IMG> tag was spelt incorrectly? Notepad left you to decide what was right and wrong. Why does any of this matter? Because I saw code/markup as a craft. I didn’t want some WYSIWYG web design app interfering with my work. If you wanted a text editor with spellcheck and autocorrect functions, there were other options.

Word among them. But now MS has decided to change the script. Autocorrect and spellcheck are coming to Notepad soon. Why, I have no idea, given the features are completely unnecessary. But MS will be MS. I’m surprised they’re not introducing the feature to WordPad, a surely (slightly) more robust word processor than Notepad.

Ironically, I read the news on Daring Fireball, a website with a distinct Apple bent. John Gruber, publisher of Daring Fireball, seems to be all in favour of the move, declaring it overdue:

Better late than never, but it’s kind of wild that Notepad is 41 years old and only getting these features now.

The whole thing is though, it’s not wild at all. The absence of these features is precisely what made Notepad so appealing in the first place. No doubt there are simple text editor alternatives for Windows. I’ve found one for Linux. Maybe the autocorrect or spellcheck functions will be a feature of Notepad only on Windows 11, which I won’t see.

Perhaps there will be a way to disable the operation of autocorrect or spellcheck in Notepad. Who knows? Of course, it’s moot point as far as I am concerned. But it is a tad sad to see so profound a change coming to an app that turned out to be quite the life changer for me all those years ago.


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I like your old music better than your new music

3 July 2024

I might say that of U2, whose music I once really liked, especially the stuff they did in the nineties. Achtung Baby. Zooropa. Pop. Even 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind. These albums mostly represented their electronic music phase. I’d have them on loop for days at a time.

I drew the ire of friends though who told me I needed to listen to their real work, their earlier stuff. From the eighties. Of course: the eighties. The only decade real music was made, apparently.

But back to U2. I tried to get into their really early stuff, but it wasn’t quite the same, as their… (then) newer stuff. Though I still spin (is that the word I’m meant to use?) New Year’s Day (nothing changes on New Year’s Day…), from time to time, usually in late December. Today though, in 2024 — not 1985, or whatever it was — U2’s more recent music, is worse than their older, nineties, stuff.

Since 2000, nothing by U2 has excited me. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, no. No Line on the Horizon, ditto. Songs of Innocence (remember the iTunes release?), forget it. Songs of Experience, nope. And if I hadn’t have looked it up, I wouldn’t have known U2 released a new album — albeit a re-working of earlier songs — called Songs of Surrender, in 2023.

In contrast, I pre-ordered All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and was outside the music shop before opening, on release day. The guy behind the counter, who (coincidentally) was Irish, and a U2 fan, told me this album was different from their previous three, and would take a few listens to enjoy.

And he was right. I did come to enjoy it. But that was over twenty-years ago. Today though, I barely listen to any U2 (except while writing this). None of it, however, fits into the category of being “gold”, as Nick Heer writes, compared to the new music being recorded by other artists in 2024. A lot of old music might be good, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than contemporary work.

But the bashing of recordings made in 2024 goes on. It’s noise. It’s garbage. It’s getting worse. It’s too easy to make. Whoever said that has obviously never tried to record a song. In any era.

This is the reason I continue listening to Triple J, which predominately plays new and alternative music. It’s an Australian radio station, but I think anyone, anywhere, can stream it. The main point being, it is none of this “hits and memories” stuff. These are the good old days, not some past decade. They’re also more Billie Eilish than Taylor Swift, if that makes a difference.

But look, if you can’t stand today’s music, I suggest you lock yourself away with the songs of, say, the Mama’s and the Papa’s, a sixties act, and whose music is surely “golden age” enough for you. Please do so immediately, so the rest of us can go about enjoying today’s new stuff.


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Ye Old Blogroll, a trove of links to blogs, personal websites

26 June 2024

My thanks to Ray for recently adding disassociated to Ye Old Blogroll, a directory of small and independent websites and blogs. Directory websites like Ray’s are invaluable when it comes to promoting the work of Indie and Small Web writers and bloggers, which is often overshadowed by all sorts of things, including some of the search engines.

Blogrolls and links pages were once often a common feature of websites and blogs, as were web directories — similar to Ye Old Blogroll — in the past, before search engines emerged. They were one of the few ways website owners could make their work known to a wider audience.

While looking around Ye Old Blogroll, I spotted this post about Substack, by Ray. Substack, an online publishing platform, was flavour of the month about two years ago. I even opened an account myself. Bloggers and writers were drawn in by the appeal of earning real money for their work, and I believe many did, or still are, doing well.

But, it was not for me. For one thing, it would have meant “starting over” again. That is, building up a following on Substack, when I already had one, or a semblance of one, here. And why would I go diluting my online presence? It would almost be the same as setting up on something like Instagram. Plus, some other entity would have ultimate control over my page there. They could decide to pull the plug at whim. And then there is this point made by Ray:

On a related note, when I browse from someone’s blog over to their Substack it feels like going from a sweet little neighborhood into a staid corporate park. A little piece of joy dies in me when that happens because it’s another reminder of the corporatization of the web.

The platform has also drawn the ire of some, including Jason Kottke, who is critical of the sort of content Substack allows to be published. No, stay in your own place. There’ll be ways to make it pay, if that’s what you need.


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Blogging about blogging versus adding value through your blog

21 June 2024

Less blogging about blogging:

The majority of my posts are either platform explanations/justifications or organizational posts. Stuff like, “I’m moving the Archives here” or “I’ve added a ton of Links there.” Other times it’s simple announcements about me moving my blog someplace new. So, why do I feel the need to talk about this?

This is something I grapple with, though maybe not to the same degree. Are people really interested in my blog posts about my blog? They’re pretty far and few between here, the last meta, blogging about blogging post, was when I added (re-added) a blogroll. I don’t know, maybe they’re a bit more common. What’s meta, and what’s not meta, can be highly subjective.

Yet a concept that — supposedly — has shaped the way I write here, derives from Twitter. I’m talking about Twitter when it was Twitter back in the day, not what it is presently. Anyway, we’d all been on Twitter for a couple of years, when 2009 arrived. By then, Twitter was deemed to be a mature platform for networking and micro-blogging, and now it was time, we, the users, conducted ourselves with a little more… sophistication.

“Add value” was a term frequently bandied about at the top of 2009. Add value meant we ought to ease back on tweeting about what we had for lunch (but not completely), and start contributing to a more useful overall conversation. Maybe there were a few years when value was indeed added through our tweets, or at least those of whom I moved in the same circles with.

But I decided I needed to bring the add value mantra to disassociated. To me, that meant less posts of an introspective nature, and more, er, useful stuff. No more: “I updated to the latest version of WordPress”, or “I backed up my website database last night”. I wanted to publish articles people might find helpful. I wasn’t sure what interest people, who wanted to find out more about how the Oscar nomination process worked, or etiquette at a classical music recital, would have in stuff meta.

Some people might argue these two examples are informational, or magazine style, posts. Not the sort of thing that belongs on a personal website. But the distinction possibly lies in the definition of a personal website. One of my first websites was a personal website, but not the very first. Instead, it was a web fiction series (emphasis on fiction), a collaboration with a friend. At that point, I saw the web as, among other things, a story telling platform.

In other words, anything other than a platform for publishing diary-like posts. Who could possibly be interested in that, I thought. But after seeing others doing it, I eventually followed suit, and started publishing an online journal. By the time the web fiction series came to an end, I had two websites, one personal — which included my online journal — and the other more magazine-like, that I called Channel Static. But I’m not sure how much “value” Channel Static really added to anything.

This was all in 1997, 1998 though. I don’t think it was until 2007, when I re-invented disassociated as a WordPress website, that value really came into the equation. But not at first. There was much meta-stuff going on. WordPress version this, WordPress version that. There was a whole lot of blogging about blogging also. A lot of that may have been me channelling the zeitgeist though.

Blogging was taking off in 2007. There were people making a full time living through their blogs. It was an exciting time to be blogging alive. Despite running a magazine website that was still meant to be a personal website, in so much as it was mine, it was near nigh impossible to ignore what was happening in what we called the blogosphere.

The 2009 catch cry to “add value” was more of a wake-up call to me to get more serious about what I published here. Even if the message had been intended for the twitterati. But the next person’s interpretation of “adding value” is their call to make. If you feel you achieve that through informational, magazine style, publishing on your personal website, well that’s fine. Exactly the same goes for meta, and blogging about blogging, posts.

They’re not called personal websites for nothing: they’re there for you to do whatever you choose.


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Happy birthday WordPress, twenty-one and going strong

30 May 2024

I’m a bit late to the party, but such is life in the twenty-first century. The other day WordPress (WP), the CMS that powers disassociated turned twenty-one (Facebook link)*.

I’ve been on-board since 2007. You’ll only find a handful of posts from those days though, I rebooted my website in 2021, after taking a slightly longer than expected four-year hiatus. The original WP blog (not to be confused with my original website which debuted in 1997) had over ten-thousand posts, many of them quite short.

When I returned in September 2021, so many of those posts had dead links, I decided the best way to deal with the problem was to start again. I deleted the old database, and started a new one. But I have been, ever so gradually, restoring certain posts from 2017 and before.

All sorts of other CMSs were there, or have emerged since 2007, but I decided to stay with WP. It might too powerful for my pretty simple needs, and I am not in with Gutenberg, but I decided to stay with what I knew. That way I can focus on what’s really important, and that’s writing.

So, happy belated twenty-first birthday WP, and thanks. Here’s to whatever comes next.

* yes, a Facebook post. I couldn’t find a write-up celebrating the illustrious milestone on the WordPress website, or even Automattic, the WP developers. Er, but surely posting on FB defeats the purpose?


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ICQ to close on 26 June 2024

27 May 2024


Another artefact of the early days of the (mainstream) internet will soon be no more. Instant messaging service, ICQ, launched in 1996, will cease operating, as of Wednesday 26 June 2024.

ICQ (I seek you, get it?) allowed users to chat to pretty much anyone who let them. I can’t remember when I stopped using ICQ, probably over twenty-years ago, but it was a fun way to communicate with people, even if you had no idea — really — who most of them were.

About the last time I used ICQ, as I recall, was after chatting with someone who claimed to a software developer, somewhere in Western Europe. He, or she, or they, seemed quite pleasant to talk to on the one occasion we did, but soon after their account appeared to go inactive.

A few months later though, they began sending dire messages, warning me my computer had been infected by a virus that would destroy all the data on the hard drive.

As it happened, I bought a new computer a few weeks later, and having not used ICQ for some time by that point, decided not to install the application on the new device.

Like everything else from those early days, I’m sure the contemporary ICQ experience would be worlds removed from that of the late 1990’s. So, another one bites the dust. At least we still have Hotmail, and our personal websites. For now, anyway.



Can blogrolls build communities online? I think so

9 May 2024

A screen cap of disassociated's links page, circa November 1999.

A screen cap of disassociated’s links page, circa November 1999. Them were dark days…

Daniel Prindii asks, could blogrolls form the basis of community building online? Well, once upon a time, when they were known as links pages, that’s exactly what they did.

But with the development of AI tools, spam, and SEO-optimized articles the experience of the web search is a horrible one, where the chances to discover something new minimal. The 404 Media team has made a good analysis of this change. Everyone goes online to learn new things, and to connect with close friends. When your search or feed is clogged with spam and bots, it defeats the whole purpose.

In a way, the early search engines defeated the purpose of link pages and blogrolls. Later, some of them penalised websites carrying blogrolls, as they believed they were made up of paid links. And that was the beginning of the end of blogrolls. But not in the Indie Web/Small Web corner of the web. Here they are common, and serving their original, and perfectly innocuous, purpose of sharing websites a blogger likes, and thinks their readers will enjoy.

With discovery becoming ever more difficult by way of the search engines, the day of blogrolls has come again. To that end, I’ve set up, or maybe reinstated after a long hiatus, a blogroll here. It’s a start, and something I’ll add to over time.


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In search of the last internet cafe on Earth

7 May 2024

Homepages and personal websites may be on the way back, but what of that other venerable staple of the early web: internet cafes?

In the late 1990’s they were everywhere. Venture onto any suburban shopping strip, and there’d be at least one net cafe in amongst the other shops. When I first acquired the domain name in 1998, we went into a net cafe so I could see the website on a computer that did not belong to me, or anyone I knew. To believe the disassociated domain name really existed, and was live online, I had to load the URL into the browser on a device alien to me.

I may’ve told this story elsewhere, somewhere here, before.

But ten years later, well into the first decade of the twenty-first century — the noughties, or aughts, if you must — net cafes were still common place. I used to do contract work, and not every workplace I went to had full internet access for all employees. Many, initially, granted unfettered access only to those at managerial level. Contract staff were deemed too risky for the privilege. Who knows what sort of websites they might lookup while the meter was running.

I was at one such place, near Central Station in Sydney, and on lunch breaks, used to regularly visit a net cafe, located below street level. The place practically had the atmosphere of a night-club; the room was dimly lit, and music blared out of a surround-sound speaker system. And it was massive. There was long row after long row of small cubicles, each hosting a desktop computer.

And it was always busy; remember we’re talking circa 2008 here. It was located a few hundred metres from one of Sydney’s largest universities, so that may have had something to do with its popularity. It seems hard to believe the place is gone now.

As they all have, from just about everywhere. But there are exceptions, and if you look hard enough, or travel far enough, you might stumble upon one of these remnants of the web’s early days.



Prolonged volcanic activity killed the dinosaurs not an asteroid

29 March 2024

Well, this is interesting. All these years I’ve thought the demise of the dinosaurs was occasioned by the impact of an asteroid that struck Earth sixty-six million years ago. That may be still the case, but some scientists believe relentless volcanic activity, spanning more than a million years before and after the strike, may have been the real culprit.

At first, the Deccan Traps, an enormous shield volcano located in what is present day India, began releasing small quantities of carbon dioxide and sulphur into Earth’s atmosphere. As time went on these emissions increased, until, about three hundred thousand years before the asteroid strike, furious volcanic eruptions commenced. After several hundred thousand years of the atmosphere being filled with toxic gases, Earth must have been all but uninhabitable anyway.

In short, the asteroid is blamed for the mass extinctions that marked the end of the Cretaceous era, simply because it arrived at the time it did. All of this is the subject matter of the latest Kurzgesagt video, and even if that’s not happened, there’s much to marvel over. One being the reign of the dinosaurs lasted one hundred and fifty million years.

Humanity, or at least Homo sapiens, have been present, perhaps a mere three hundred thousand years so far. And then there’s Earth itself. Towards the end of the Cretaceous era, the planet was far warmer, and humid, than presently. Forests flourished in polar regions, and despite the long polar nights, life went on in what have seemed like a short sleeve like environment. Fascinating.


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