This Old House (of PHP, CSS, and HTML)

Here we go again!

It seems as though I wind up blogging about the tools of blogging every two or three years. That’s how long it takes for me to scrub off the shame I acquired from my previous attempt to roll up my sleeves and revamp my own site.

The huge irony of all of this is that I was blogging before there was even a word for what a blog was. I was posting to my blog frequently enough that automating the process became important. And in the absence of WordPress (et al), AppleScript had to fill the void. What began as a simple script for uploading a text file to a server ultimately became what was probably the second most complicated app I’ve ever written. Only the advent of mobile blogging pulled me back from the abyss and pushed me towards the mature (and, fine, much better) content management systems that had sprung up in the intervening years.

(Inspired, no doubt, by my leadership-by-example.)

(Please…let me have this.)

I’ve been very happy with WordPress. I keep telling myself I could be happier with it if I took more control over it, and hell, I once wrote an OS for the Apple II and I’ve paid a major polytechnic university a lot of money to help me learn to program hardware and software the likes of which have been forsaken by God. Customizing WordPress by hand is well within my wheelhouse.

And here’s where we play the clip of Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico. His days of youthful triumph long behind him, he both embellishes what he was capable of in his prime and deludes himself into thinking he’s still just as sharp.

Ok, I’ll be fair with myself. I know PHP. I understand how WordPress themes work. And the good news about CSS is that it makes me so damned angry that I refuse to give it the satisfaction of knowing that it beat me and I’m determined to drag it right down to hell with me, if necessary.

I can do this. I just can’t do this beyond the point where I’ve lost total interest in it. So I’m left with an improved but not-quite-finished site, the power to move on with my life, and the sense that I’m still a badass developer and will totally get this done when I have enough time and mental bandwidth to focus on the project.

I was missing something important, though: a damned good reason to build a totally refreshed site. The Sun-Times published anything I wanted to write about tech, twice a week.

As most of you know, I ended my 19-year relationship with the Sun-Times in April. It wasn’t sad news for me at all. In fact, during the last year or two I’d been campaigning hard to create a new tech site/portal that I would control and which would act as a companion to the Sun-Times column. Something akin to what Roger Ebert created for his movie reviews. I’d still write features that would go through the Sun-Times’ CMS and editing workflow, but everything would be enhanced by a blog where I could post quick and timely stuff on my own.

Alas, I failed to fully intoxicate the paper with this proposal. But now, I can move forward with it on my own.

I’m going to be writing a series of posts about the creation of andyi dot com. I’ve finally got the new site to a state where it’s actually possible to post stuff. It’s not so far along that I don’t need to create lots of stuff for it so that I can see how it’s working. So there’s that. These posts might also help out people who are setting out on a similar path.

And, sure, it’ll be good to have written documentation of what I was thinking. You know, just in case I look back upon the scraps of flaming wreckage that are still fluttering back towards earth and I find myself asking “What was I thinking?