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day permlink Friday, 22 August 2008

permlink Days of Yore

Scott Rosenberg is working on a book about the early days of weblogging.

Since my name sometimes comes up when one looks at the very early weblogging days (as in 1997; see in particular Rebecca's Weblog Handbook), Scott pinged me about what things were like back then.

Well, that was 11 years ago! My memory is not that perfect.

Wouldn't it be handy if the old stuff were still around to look over and remind myself?

But too bad, the server on which my original site was hosted is long gone (my old friend, a Centris running Mac System 7.5 or some such). So those files don't exist any more.

And the Internet Archive has a little of the old stuff cached, but not all of it.


I still have the old content sitting around in a Frontier/RadioUserland file on this very laptop's hard drive, don't I?

And I've meant to re-publish that old old stuff for a long time now, right? You know, to really prove I was there. Really, on this very site can be found the string "(Archives from Feb 1997 - Nov 1998 still need to be dug up...)". But in all this years I've never actually made that effort.


Thankfully, my OS X Radio Userland from a few years ago can still read the old seb.root and NowThis.root files, and it can still publish. So I set about to recovering the Old Days.

There were some snags. I went through and fixed up a bunch of the absolute links to be relative. Somehow my #templates for the original site had gone away, but the Archive was helpful in recovering something much like it. Also, I lost the #glossary for that site, so recreating that was a bit of work (oh, I do miss the Frontier Glossary; Movable Type does not have such a beast, at least not in the version I'm using). I even had to dig into my old finalFilter script and tweak that a few times...

And so on! and so forth! Really, the process was exactly as much fun as reading about it. Quite tedious at times.

And then I hit Publish, and my old site exists again.

Take that, entropy.

While not a perfect recreation, this is still pretty darn close; all the words are there, which is the important thing. Even the embarrassing, stupid ones. (For instance, I was mighty concerned at the time that Apple was going to disappear, which there seemed to be a real danger of. Thankfully they're well past that rough spot now.)

Looking back over the early stuff, it's clear that when I didn't have the constraints of the Modern Blogging Form as instantiated in Movable Type and WordPress, I had a very different approach to how to compose an entry.

My own "native" weblog format was very different from what the modern software tries to force you into -- What, you mean I can just post a single sentence about something without having to also come up with a title for it? I can just ramble on several topics at once without anything poking me to think about how to tag it or categorize it? Golly gee, that actually makes it sound like fun.

You'll find lots of broken links, since a lot of the sites are just gone now, and the major publications have nearly all changed their URL schemes and broken all the incoming links many times over in 11 years. (Personal sites to which I pointed have been much better about preserving ancient links. Go figure.)

Comment threads were nonexistent (OK, fine, some existed next door to the Web, on Usenet). If you wanted to comment on someone else's web writing, you wrote it on your own site and either notified the other person, or hoped they checked their referer logs.


It was fun to do the digging, and I've restored my little corner of 'net history. (If you find technical glitches on any of the pages, feel free to alert me so I can fix them further.)

Thanks to Scott R. for providing the catalyst for me getting around to this.

I may even take some lessons from the younger me about how to weblog.

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