.journal 2001.07.31
Living the Web lifestyle.

Now listening to: Tori Amos, Under the Pink
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Drawing Blood; Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems
Now playing: Sonic Shuffle (Dreamcast)

In case you hadn't already heard, the .org will be changing hosts soon. Interland just raised their prices, and between that, recovering from the fire, going to school and all the other things I'm doing these days, I need a cheaper host. So as if I don't have enough to do what with my final exam for my summer college course in nine days, and a presentation for the class sometime before then, now I have to deal with a major overhaul to this site that won't result in any real new content for any of you.

The reason why this overhaul will be so major is because I'll be moving from a Windows 2000 host to a Linux host, which pretty much invalidates all the Active Server Page code I have on this site, meaning I'll have to outsource my list and learn Apache and Perl from scratch in order to restore the functionality I used to have here. The worst part is, I have a real good book on Perl, but it's in storage because I didn't think I'd need it anytime soon when I was cleaning stuff out after the fire. Sigh.

And the funny thing was, as I was contemplating the changes I'll have to make over the next week (my Interland contract expires 08.08 so I have to have everything taken care of by then), I was actually contemplating a redesign of this site. Since I already had to take everything down and recomposite it, I thought, why not dress it up a bit more while I was at it? Besides, the site's nearly nine months old now, and I haven't ever changed the design.

It struck me, though, that this was a line of thinking from my old career designing Websites. Of course you redesign a site every year; otherwise you'll risk being seen as stale and unchanging, not up with the times. I don't want to say that I'm done designing Websites as part of my job; eventually I'll probably get stuck with the task of trying to make some aesthetic sense out of my company's Website after all my father did to it. But when it comes down to it, I'm just not as tied to the Web as I once was.

I was at Antioch when Netscape 1.0 came out, and I remember cherishing the part-time job I had as a monitor in the computer lab at South Hall because that meant I got on the good computer, the one with the best Web access. The Web definitely intrigued me, but at that point commercial enterprise was really just beginning to venture onto it, and the only personal Websites out there could be obtained through space you got from your college. Only computer science majors were getting space at that time, and I was a music major, so I was out of luck.

When I got back to Toledo and began working for my father again, though, things had changed a bit. My father had a Compuserve membership, and slowly as Compuserve woke up to this whole Internet thing, that meant my father got Web space. All of one megabyte of it, and it had this horrible URL that went something like http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/tshannon/homepage.html or something like that. That didn't stop me, though, as I downloaded all I could find about HTML, picked up a couple of books and designed Shannon Graphics' first Website. Mind you, it never went up on Compuserve because their uploading software was glitchier than anything Microsoft could ever hope to create, but still, I had created my first Website.

Although this first site never went anywhere, we were blessed with a real estate company moving in to the office next to ours that wanted to get into the Internet business. I had only really designed this one site at this point, but this was so early in the Internet's boom that that really didn't matter, and before I knew it I was designing a whole bunch of draft sites for them. Long story short, the draft sites got the company a whole lot of contracts, but then they turned around and hired an in-studio team to do all the actual designs. That company in turn merged into the local cable company that also runs the town's crappy newspaper who can't make a decent paper or get a decent channel lineup or decent cable modem service that isn't even available at my house and whose boss's granddaughter who was a year below me at private school was one of the worst snobs I ever had the misfortune of meeting, but that's another story and no I'm not bitter and why would you think that just because I'm writing this incredibly long run-on sentence I don't think that's a sign I'm angry do you think that's a sign I'm angry oh shut up you don't know anything anyway just shut up shut up SHUT UP!!! Ahem.

Anyway, even though we never got any money out of it, I still got to learn an awful lot from the experience, and coming out of it I thought I was a fairly decent designer. I designed a new site for Shannon Graphics, then used the Webspace I had with my America Online account at that point (Antioch terminated my account unexpectedly one day and the AOL disk was the closest thing to me at the moment, what can I say other than AOL sucks) and I put up some writing on a subject I'd done in college and recently taken back up. That was the leadup to the "situation" I always malign in here, but as much as I personally abhor what happened with that whole thing, I can't deny that it didn't give me even more opportunity to learn about Website design.

The person who'd built all my father's early computers started his own ISP around this time, and through that connection we ended up getting a couple of Websites to design, including what was probably my biggest professional effort, a Website for a local costume shop. That site started just as an "online print catalog" with a couple of hundred items, but by the time I left the site earlier this year we had over 3,400 items on the site and an online shopping cart system that I coded from scratch. Looking at that first Shannon Graphics site I designed and this last siteit was clear just how much I had matured as a Website designer.

In fact, I was so confident of my own Website design skills that when I had to create my own company to handle the business end of things for "the situation," I decided to just go all-out and make it a total service Website design company. The conflict of interest with my father was obvious, but he let it slide; after all, I was only doing what he and his father had done before, going out and starting my own business, and I detected a bit of admiration from him about it. I got my company listed on all the sites I could, I scoured around looking for every development job I could bid for, I just went totally bonkers to the point where, for all intents and purposes I was living my life on the Web.

And I fell flat on my face.

Obviously starting my business at the same time the Internet Boom finally slowed down had a good deal to do with my failure, but there were other factors as well. Like the fact that I couldn't sell myself to save myself; interpersonal dealings with strangers just has never come naturally to me. I can write advertising copy well enough, but when it comes to actually speaking it I'm just not that good. What killed me, though, was that for as much as I knew about Website design, I hadn't actually learned much. Skills alone could get you by in the early days of the Web, but now you need that college degree to get your foot in the door anywhere, and I didn't have it. I was pretty much doomed from the start, but I kept up appearances until I left "the situation" and then shut everything down.

I was still planning on doing Websites for a living, but the fire kind of changed my thinking and made me realize how important that college degree is, how important it is for me to cover my bases first, have the foundation I need in order to do what I want to do. I'm not even sure I'll get back into the Website design business once I'm done with college, but I still need a college degree. (Although I'm not ruling out doing the odd Website for a few bucks here and there, if any of you are interested and have the cash. Yes, I know I'm shameless.)

But I guess another factor behind my decision was that I basically lived the Web lifestyle for a while there, and it just wasn't doing anything for me. I don't want to say it wasn't fun trying to check hundreds of job sites a day while I had CNBC going on next to me (have to keep track of those tech stocks, after all) and placing more of an emphasis on online friends than offline ones, but I guess I got tired of it, or maybe it just stopped working for me like it used to. My most important friendships are still online ones, although that's a matter of circumstance and not choice.

Some of the old lines of thinking still die hard, though. If I had access to TechTV here at the hotel room, I'm sure I'd be watching it as much as I could to keep apprised to the current trends. And whenever I find an ugly Website, I still have an urge to try to make it better, to figure out all the flaws and how to correct them. After all, designing Websites is still a creative process, and when it comes to creative endeavours I always pour my heart into them. Some may say I'm a creativity addict, and I think I'd consider that a compliment.

I guess some would question whether or not I've left the Web lifestyle if I'm still doing this Website. This Website really isn't the same to me, though, it's not as immersive as what I used to do. I still think this Website serves a purpose of gathering like-minded people or people with experiences similar to mine so we can all get better together, but at the same time it's easier for me to delineate between this site and everything else around me. With what I'm doing at college now, I have an "offline life" for the first time in a while, and I want to explore that life as much as I can. I guess I still do have an online life through this Website and the friends I maintain online, but those things have their place, as does this site. It's basically a balancing act, and it's one I think I'm doing well at, even if I'd like to update this journal more often and maybe go out a bit more frequently. (Maybe the problem isn't so much balance as it is sheer time.)

I'll be the first to admit that this site isn't going to win any awards for technical feats; I was going for simplicity with the design. I tend to trend towards complicated things, though, throwing every geegaw I can into things just because I can. Maybe that's why I wanted to redesign this site earlier. But to be honest I like the way the site looks now, it's humble but yet inspired. And besides, I'd rather spend an evening with offline friends than an evening redesigning this site. So a redesign anytime soon is highly unlikely.

But big changes are coming to this site soon. Not the kind of changes you'll see or really experience to a big degree, but still enough change to cause me some time problems. I'm sure it'll be like the old days for a short time as I try to get everything converted over for the new Linux host and uploaded, but then hopefully I can get back to the more pleasurable ways I've found of spending my time recently.

Everyone take care and be well. I'll see you all soon.

- Sean