Where do you begin?

Q. I’m searching for your archive. Whenever I find a really good blog, I like to start at the beginning so I can understand better some of what you’re talking about. And I can’t find any link to your archives.

A. Thanks for writing. I started my site in 1995. There weren’t blogging tools back then, hence there aren’t archives in the sense you are describing. I published via hand-coded HTML until around 2004, when I began using WordPress. All my pre-WordPress content is still online; you just have to keep hitting the “PREVIOUS” button to get to it. Sorry about that.

[tags]writing, blogging, wordpress, archive, archives, site, data, organization, structure, dailyreport, zeldman, zeldman.com[/tags]

30 thoughts on “Where do you begin?

  1. I actually did that. Mildly frustrating, but ultimately, very nostalgic. It was like a wayback machine, only more educational.

    (Though my attempts at starting a blog-esque site have yet to be given the effort they need,) I am actually a huge fan of the idea of static-based archives. I’ve read a couple other blogs “cover-to-cover” (subtraction.com and jasonsantamaria.com), and every time they “re-design” their site, you don’t see the transition, despite all they talk about it. Granted, even your posts aren’t written with an archivist’s intent, but the ability to see a site’s metamorphosis is a real delight. (Granted, Mr. Santa Maria’s October posts have embodied this, but that’s only a drop in his pond.)


  2. I also started out hand-coding, eventually switching to WordPress (which involved a lot of cutting and pasting to preserve the old content, mind you). While WordPress is enormously convenient, I regret that my entire site is shoehorned into one particular format. I’d make some changes, if only I could change the column widths without breaking some older posts. Half the fun of your archives is seeing all the great designs and how they played together with your writing.

  3. I have thought about building a content managment system that allows indivdual pages to be styled differently. So, in this case, the old stuff would stay the same as it was originally posted, these posts would stay the as they are, and future post could have a new design without changing the past.

    I started reading this site when DWWS first came out. Back then I hand rolled everything, that book and this site changed my web design life. So, thanks JZ.

  4. LOL. I think I started reading your blog in 1997, and hit that “previous” button a quadzillion times as I headed back to the Beginning to see what I’d missed or to find something again to check the details. Hey! Wait a minute! Is that how I got my repetitive stress injuries?

    I loved your very personal My Glamorous Life, and think, too, of all the careers you blasted into the stratosphere with just a few words of blessing and a link. I was just now sighing and reminiscing about how simple and beautiful life was, and then remembered stumbling and bumbling through my creation of absolute crap designs that wouldn’t have looked good even if the browsers had worked the same. :)

  5. Oops, wish I could go back and fix that italic problem. Of course, if you could see the mouse I use, that looks like the mouse version of an orthopedic shoe, you’d understand why I have to redo little tags all the time. Beware, young ones, of hammering away at your computers, or you’ll be in the same boat I am. :)

  6. John, John, and Jonathan: Yes, yes, yes. I’m about to redesign and I’m fretting about the fact that the redesign will change the old posts, too. The archeology of outdated layouts is part of the charm of an old personal site.

    Carolyn: I loved your post and I fixed your italics. Good heavens, a mouse like an orthopedic shoe.

    Devon: Would Open Search work better than the Search I’ve already got on my site?

  7. Bad Answer.

    Archives by month in order of most recent…

    Archives by year in order of most recent…

    You still only get 10 at a time, but at least you can specify where to start.

    Jeffrey, you should have these listed somewhere. I’m certain theres a WordPress plugin for it. Also, I believe there is a plugin to stick them in the head section as link rel=”archives” tags, as seen here.

    Have a nice day.

  8. Bad Answer.

    Josh? Son?

    Did you miss the part where I said I’d been hand-rolling the site since 1995?

    I don’t think WordPress has a plug-in to create archives out of thousands of pages of hand-rolled HTML. If it does have such a plug-in, I will kiss Matt Mullenweg on both cheeks.

    The URLs that you pulled will only work for the content I created after switching to WordPress in 2004.

    They will not work for content I created between 1995 and 2004.

    That is to say, they will not create an archive of most of my content. (Trust me, I was a much more active blogger between 1995 and 2004 than I have been in the past four years.)

    The lady wrote asking about my archive going back to the beginning of my site. Which would be 1995. Which I can’t create. Do you follow me now?

    Have an awesome day.

  9. Daaaayum. New Yorkers.

    I understand the part about content prior to WordPress (I could write something to get that old content into your SQL database, but you’re right, not an easy task). I just found your answer to be a little misleading when you said you had to keep hitting “Previous Reports” to get back into the archives. I was simply pointing out that you can change the URL to go back to previous entries (yeah, wordpress only, but still) instead of clicking the previous reports button a million times like a mental patient. Generally, bloggers will have a list of archives by month somewhere (usually on every page). You don’t. So I provided this tidbit of info for the newbies. Sorry to piss you off.

    And I will continue to have an awesome day. Hopefully you can too.

  10. I started reading your blog in 1998. Still reading it on a daily base, almost. Always inspiring, smart and instructive. As you mentionned : “The archeology of outdated layouts is part of the charm of an old personal site.” Agree. Please, don’t redesign your archives, it’s so cool to go back in time. Hitting the “PREVIOUS” button ? Part of my pleasure…
    Have a nice day.

  11. Jeffrey: you could always convert all your WordPress-bound content up to this point to static files with some wget magic. A quick search reveals this post which seems to point the way fairly well, although not having read it in detail I can’t vouch for its accuracy. WordPress will always let static files override dynamic ones, so if /2008/06/05/where-do-you-begin/index.html exists, then that will be sent to the user rather than the WordPress version.

  12. I’m assuming the search you have, only covers your entries since you started using WordPress, right? Opensearch, is a nice touch to help your visitors find that stuff plus older entries in the mix. You might want to try it at least.

  13. Back in the day, I grew so frustrated hitting that Previous button I built myself a good old-fashioned html links page as a handy reference for friends and family for your My Glamorous Life section. Now, of course I’d just link them at Magnolia…

    And yes, I wish I’d had the presence of mind and the wisdom of years to archive my old HTML and ‘design’, for as eager as I was to ditch that old crap I miss it terribly now. A person’s old designs are a part of them. Damn hindsight anyway.

    I bet it’d be possible to write a plugin that allowed one to switch to a new theme starting at X date so long as the theme wasn’t removed from the server. But that’s well out of my ambit.

  14. I rolled my own for a long time also until I finally started using WordPress a year ago. I managed to move all my old blog posts, about 600 of them, spanning five or so years, to my WP database by creating an RSS format upload file, and then cutting and pasting each post from static HTML files into the upload file

    It took several weeks, working on it part time, but at least they’re all there and archived. I imagine you’d have a much bigger job here though :)

  15. I read your blog since 1997, like Carolyn. Never met you (I lived in Russia until last year), and nevertheless feel like you are my old friend. Thank you, Jeffrey.

    By the way, it is interesting that you started with such a bold color gamma, something like orange / violet on black as far as I can remember, then gradually soften it and now it’s a totally opposite low-contrast pastel gamma. Where next? :)

  16. Jeffrey! You should blah blah blah blah blah blah snarf quippy yap yap yap bark roof meow yap yap yip blah urgh blah blah blah blah blah blahbhal blahbalh blah blah blah blah blah blah ….. to your archives so we can drill back to the beginning.

    This (archiving) has been all well documented on the net over the years and there’s even plugins too. Just go to Google and type in archiving my blog + plugins.

    You would think some people think Jeffrey’s new to this and doesn’t know what to think… for himself.

  17. Everyone: Thanks for the wonderful comments and suggestions.

    I’m assuming the search you have, only covers your entries since you started using WordPress, right?

    @Devon: No, it’s Atomz Search and covers everything public on my server. I’m not using WordPress’s built-in search. But now I understand where you were coming from! Thanks for your helpfulness!

    Sorry to piss you off.

    @Josh: Sorry so grumpy. Your comment began with the two-word paragraph, “Bad Answer.” Unfortunately, this terse introduction made your entire comment come across as aggressively know-it-all and condescending. I’m sure that you did not intend to sound that way, but that was the effect your word choice created. It even made “Have a nice day” sound sarcastic. Again, I sense now that you did not mean to come across that way. Sorry for any tonal misunderstanding.

    By the way, it is interesting that you started with such a bold color gamma, something like orange / violet on black as far as I can remember, then gradually soften it and now it’s a totally opposite low-contrast pastel gamma. Where next?

    @Vitaly: Bold and high contrast, I’m thinking. But not lurid! No yellow on purple, etc.

  18. Hi Jeffrey, I was interested to read about your days working as a copy writer in the advertising world before you moved onto the web. I’d really like to see all of your advertising works prior to 1995. Don’t you think it’s remiss of you not to have scanned all those works in as images and using OCR so that I can read them at my leisure? If you could make amends and publish all of that work – for free, naturally – I would appreciate it. [And don’t give me any of that ‘I have a wife/child/dog/life in general’ nonsense. That just won’t wash.] A week from today would be good. Kthanxbye

    {and for anyone who has ‘subprime’ intelligence … that was very much sarcasm! Because, you know, some people … }

  19. If I had a fraction of the writing skills you have, my comment could not have been mis-interpreted. I re-read it, and it does sound condescending; sorry ’bout that. Thanks for the follow-up!

  20. I started my site with something of a blog (although each post was hand coded and didn’t allow for comments.) When I installed a MT in 2002 and actually received my first comment, it was from a stranger across the pond and freaked me out a little.

    Even though I worked for an Internet-based company that relied on search queries for most of their business, I thought no one read my site but a handful of people who knew the URL.

    Since then I’ve met some really cool people through the www. This whole being public online thing doesn’t freak me out as much anymore. I kind of like it.

  21. @John Lampard: I, too, converted my site from a hand-coded HTML blog (one page per month’s worth of posts, no matter how many times I posted in a month) to a WordPress site.

    I could have spent more time figuring out how to import all my entries in one fell swoop. (The RSS method sounds interesting — more details?) I ended up just using brute force: I copied and pasted each entry, manually edited each timestamp, and added a title to each entry (all previously untitled). It was a kind of fun, and a kind of weird trip through the recent past.

    Of course, this is not a method I recommend for Jeffrey, since he’s written far more than the mere 200 posts I had managed from 2001 to 2007.

  22. Having to state that you started a website in 1995 just sounds, I don’t know, like having to tell people you came over in the Mayflower or something. You of all people shouldn’t have to try so hard.

  23. Having to state that you started a website in 1995 just sounds, I don’t know, like having to tell people you came over in the Mayflower or something. You of all people shouldn’t have to try so hard.

    Art Jones: Fair assertion, but I wrote in response to a new reader who began blogging recently and didn’t understand why my site failed to offer the same features her site offers. There were two possible answers:

    1. I started blogging recently and don’t understand how my blogging software works.
    2. I started blogging years before there was blogging software.

    #2 was the correct answer, so I stated it.

  24. Huh. I’m not sure when I started reading your site, Jeffrey, but I am sure that it was before we were even calling them “weblogs”, never mind “blogs”.

    Yes, I just wrote that to sound old and curmudgeonly, thanks!

    Thank you for continuing to provide technical guidance to those of us to lazy to invent these things for ourselves.

Comments are closed.