I've had a presence on the Internet since 1998, when I was given web space by the now defunct SWC, Inc. Read on for a little trip down Nostalgia Circle.
My first site was the only site to use frames. It was designed in my high school's computing class at Christian School of York. Our teacher, David Iriana, was interested in what we could come up with using this new World Wide Web technology (Mr. Iriana has since moved on to WHEREVER). At the time, cascading style sheets (CSS) was a new technology. The support for it under Netscape and Internet Explorer differed wildly, and I ended up designing the site to look best in Internet Explorer. Life sure was different back then, eh?
The site was hosted by Stephen Wilson Consulting, a small computer firm that did contract work for my dad. I used them throughout my time at Millersville, until 2000. When I started hosting MP3s, they summarily cut off my account without discussing it or listening to any appeals. Oh well.
PSU Site Mk 1
Penn State provides web space to its students for free, so I set one up using just a little bit of HTML and CSS. It was very minimal and offered just a few items that were of interest to the LiteStep community. Perhaps the black-on-dark-blue wasn't the most readable, but the design of the site was heads-and-shoulders above most GeoCities and AngelFire pages. GeoCities was the spiritual ancestor of MySpace - a free web hosting system that everyone used to flood people with obnoxious music, color schemes, and flashing graphics.
PSU Site Mk 2
I started doing more work with LiteStep, so I decided that I needed a better site. I began using Fahim Farook's Blogger software (no relation to Google's Blogger.com). This software let me design the site completely on my own computer, and just upload the changes to the web server when I wanted. I started doing more complicated layouts, but still tried to keep the basics very clean.
Moving to 1and1: e107
After Penn State, I realized I needed more stable web hosting. So why not pay for it? I found an offer in video game magazin for a company called 1&1. They offered free basic web hosting, which included your own domain. And so www.jwoltman.net was born.
One of the programmers I knew from LiteStep, jalist, was working on a website content management system called e107. I started using it immediately, and its usefulness was soon apparent: I could post over the Internet, so I was no longer tied to my own computer. Every year and a half or so I would get the itch to redesign the site, and I went through 3 designs with e107. But creating photo galleries was difficult, and since I was getting into photography I needed a better solution.
Moving to TextPattern
I started with TextPattern and was impressed - the entire system (including the design components) was created through the web site interface. While this sounds good at first, this approach has a big shortcoming: previewing your work is difficult. But I plugged away at it and soon had a really great photo gallery in addition to the regular content. One thing that was missing, however, was user accounts. On my e107 site I was able to create content that only friends could see by logging in. TextPattern didn't support it, meaning any random visitor could see everything. With this reduction of privacy, I just removed any content that I didn't want everyone to be able to see.
For e107 and TextPattern I had a homebrewed system for creating photo slideshows. This system worked pretty well and evolved with my sites, because I was able to control the entire process. But it started to be a pain once I began working on multiple computers. I was never sure what computer had which photos, or if they were on multiple computers, then which was the newest?
TextPattern also required me to do a lot of prep work on my photos before I posted them, which is the main reason I started to slack off updating the site.
Drupal: An 800lb Gorilla
So what should I do? I want to continue having a website, but I needed things to be simpler. Sites like Facebook and Flickr had easy image posting, so why couldn't I? Sites like BlogSpot and Blogger.com let people post their writings with a simple web-based system, so why couldn't I? The answer is, of course, that I could, with a content manager called Drupal.
Drupal is a complicated system, but its complexity gives it power and flexiblity unmatched by e107 and TextPattern. I layed out the site you see before you in Photoshop, and created the HTML based on that. I'm able to upload massive amounts of photos in a single click, give them captions, and have them automatically thumbnailed, scaled, and slideshowed.
For now, Drupal has been a dream to use. And the most important thing I've gotten out of it is more knowledge: I've learned about virtual machines.