Saturday, November 1, 2008

HTML Blues

When I was about 14, my parents hooked me up on the World Wide Web. It was 1996 and the Internet had not yet become mainstream in households around Australia.

It wasn't long before I stumbled across a fantastic little website community called GeoCities. Those of you who were out on the web back then will undoubtedly remember it, especially if it impacted your experience of the web as much as it did mine. GeoCities was a free system for building and hosting a basic website. Addresses were creatively labeled things like 'Heartlands' or 'Silicon_Valley' and topics ranged from the latest TV heroes to the local church calendar. In January 1999, near the peak of the dot com bubble, GeoCities was purchased by Yahoo! for $3.57 billion.

I first learned HTML by using a tutorial on GeoCities, and many happy years of dabbling have followed. Though I'm no expert, I'm fluent enough with code to build basic pages from scratch (eg. in Notepad) and to be comfortable with WYSWYG (What You See is What You Get) editors like Dreamweaver and Frontpage. Recently I've been working with CSS and enjoying the power of DIV tags (though I still rely heavily on Dreamweaver. I also learned how to build PHP websites the cheat's way (using a content management system like Joomla!).

Arg, technobabble, you may be thinking. Before you click away, all you need to know is that a content management system is like using Blogspot or any of the other Web 2.0 'DIY' systems, except its more powerful and complicated. It enables you to build a dynamic (text is stored in a database) website even if you're not a programmer.

At least, that's what I thought until now. I currently have one website online using Joomla! (see Until recently, the website for my career as a writer also used Joomla!, albeit a newer version. A few months ago, the front page started bugging - instead of my nice little welcome spiel there was an error message. My ever-helpful web host Brinkster happened to have a backup to restore to, which fixed the error. But alas, it happened again.

A few months later, I went to my site ( only to find a nasty little animated gif with fire coming off it and the tagline of some kind of hacker program (MAFIATAOURIRT). Sadly, there are people out on the Internet who have nothing better to do than send malicious software to ruin other people's hard work.
Hence I have decided to stop using Joomla! as my website content management system.

My new website allows certain freedoms you don't have if you're a non-programming-genius using Joomla! For something simple, plain old HTML does the trick. But if you want any kind of interactivity with visitors (forms, logins, shopping carts etc.), dynamic pages are the way to go. Joomla! is a great little CMS, as far as I can tell. I have not used any other CMS' mind you.

My experience as an amateur web designer has been mostly positive over the years. The effort it takes to get a top search ranking today (SEO - Search Engine Optimisation) is a little bit too daunting for me at this stage. The great thing about the web is it changes rapidly and it changes directly in line with demand. The rise of Web 2.0 social networking sites like this one, plus MySpace, Facebook etc. are the tip of the iceberg.

But that's a topic for another blog.

Thanks for reading.

Related Links

Web 2.0 - a great little video on YouTube:

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