March 6, 2016

The 2016 Redesign of SZCZ.org

On February 6, 2016, I made public a redesign and restructuring of my personal website. This marks the first substantial redesign of my website in more than a decade, and the eighth such iteration of my personal website since I started writing on the World Wide Web. To review the history, now twenty years in the making:

  1. Just one month before I graduated from college, I set up my very first website (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~szcz) as an assignment for a class. The page even helped me draw the attention of a journalist with the New York Daily News, who interviewed me in the summer of 1996 about American phonology (accents). Unfortunately, it appears that this website does not appear to have a surviving archival copy on the internet.
  2. When I entered graduate school later that year, I set up a second personal page that, I am happy to report, has been archived.
  3. Personal pages set up on university servers were prone to deletion if the owner of the account left the university -- for example, if a student who set up a personal page graduated. That's why I set up an insurance policy of sorts by posting a copy of my personal archives on another, commercial site. The first such backup was on a site called GoPlay (http://www.goplay.com/~szcz); it was here that I garnered a bit of fame for my page on The Stanley Cup: A History of Abuse and Neglect. The page was cited by ESPN Radio and garnered a mention in print in a June 1998 issue of ESPN: The Magazine. Regrettably, GoPlay abruptly went out of business, and so I moved my webpage to....
  4. Geocities! Copies of this have also been archived.
  5. I had access to a second server at the University of Chicago's computer science department, when I was a graduate student there, which served as a temporary home for some things. Shockingly, as I write this, that page is still online.
  6. Even before the collapse of Geocities, I figured it was time to get my own domain. A boss of mine half-jokingly floated the idea to reserve mitchellszczepanczyk.com, but that struck me as a bit overlong for the shrinking standards of website domains. I tried to get szcz.com, which as I write this has apparently been used as a redirect. Plan B: Get szcz.org, which was available. The website could use a fresh look, and my design prowess was meager, so I asked a friend of mine to redesign my website, which I then coded as a dynamic webpage using the PHP web programming language.
  7. A bit after the heyday of blogs, I set up a blog using the Wordpress framework as a subsite of my main website. This then led to a half-decade-long split-mind existence of my website: a blog with relatively recent content, complete with updated code and doodads like categories and chronological archives and a search bar (even if it was still PHP) -- alongside my main website which hosted content from my radio show and long-form articles. Pages on one seldom referred to the other.
  8. I had considered a redesign and structural unification. But with what? I code for a living, but at the same time I don't want to get involved in too much code. I just knew it wasn't to involve PHP, which has its share of problems and which has fallen into disfavor, at least among developers, myself included. I had fallen in love -- hard -- for Clojure, so much so that I attended Clojure conferences (my first conferences for any programming language, it turns out). I did learn about a static-web-generator software package written in Clojure called Cryogen, and after review and when I got the opportunity in late January 2016, I decided to take the plunge. Over the course of a week, I worked to convert all my previous web posts -- from "both" websites -- into individual Markdown files; there are tools to speed the process along, but it took a while to work through twenty years of idiosyncracies.

The result is what you see here. Not too shabby, especially since the result is now in a much cleaner format and in source control to boot, hopefully ready for whatever new toy comes next.

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