Picture of a judge's wigThis Is Not A BLOG!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 13/06/04

Year's End

It's twelve months today since this site was first hurled into cyberspace.

It started out as a great adventure: gee, I'd be out there! People would read my opinions! Perhaps it would lead to bigger things...

Well, no. Not really. I can't say that magazines and newspapers have been beating an electronic path to my portal promising me untold opportunities. Well, I can say it, obviously, but it would be difficult typing it with my fingers crossed.

One thing I have learned is that there are so many personal websites out there, so many blogs, that it is all but impossible to be heard in the general background noise radiation. Perhaps I should think myself lucky that this site (and it's Welsh-language sister at www.ybarnwr.me.uk) get about 80 or so hits a month. After all, what great secrets do I have to impart about the running of the Universe? What philosophy do I have which keeps me looking young and acting so cheerful? In short, what the f&^* makes me think that I should be regarded as essential reading for any well-connected bien pensants out there?

It's all vanity, when it comes down to it.

Still, I've learned other valuable lessons from the past twelve months which I might as well share with you.

First off, I hadn't fully realised quite how much work is involved simply with keeping a website up-to-date. It's not enough simply to have an idea, you have to be able to present it in a coherent fashion. It helps if you can be interesting and/or entertaining, too. At times during this past year, the effort involved just in doing that has been frankly too much and so the site has drifted without updates for quite a period. This almost certainly deters people from returning to it. I mean, you probably know yourself that if you visit a site after a gap of, say, a month and find that it still has no more on it than the last time, you're likely to draw the conclusion that the webmaster has either died, lost his hard drive, or lost the will to carry on. I know I always took that view before I started all this.

Besides which, there's the issue of material in any case. When I began to plan this site (yes, I did plan; I know it doesn't look that way, but trust me on this), I looked forward to airing my opinions on anything and everything. No-one and nothing could stop me, I thought.

Except that it's mad to think that you can have an opinion on everything. I don't have an opinion on Doritos, for example, because I've never knowingly eaten one; I can't have an opinion on whether BMW's latest model outshines its nearest competitor, because I can't drive; even on weightier matters, I am still constrained by my own lack of knowledge of a particular subject (yes, I know it doesn't stop journalists, but they're paid for it). If there's one thing I have nightmares over (apart from discovering a really dreadful spelling mistake after I've uploaded the page), it's giving public displays of my own ignorance. How can I be interesting, entertaining or even just coherent on subjects where I can't even tell what my own opinions are?

And one more lesson which may be of value to anyone reading this who's thinking of setting up their own site in the future: don't try to be so ^%!*ing clever! Oh, when I started out, I had big ideas about how this site was going to be so visually stimulating, so entertaining in its presentation; and all this despite the fact that all I had was Front Page™ 2000 and a small amount of experience in developing a web system to enable me to roam around my own personal filestore without having to go through Windows Explorer or having 715 shortcuts on my desktop.

When I'd finished, I thought I was so smart! So much so that after I'd uploaded it I asked the inhabitants of alt.fan.pratchett for their opinions and sat back waiting to bask in the warm thermals of approbation...

...only to find myself getting a cold blast of withering criticism right up me kilt. It was like an appointment with my Diabetic consultant (I'm diabetic that is, not him). That is to say, everything I've been doing is wrong, and putting it right would take a lot of hard work and would detract quite markedly from my joie de vivre.

"Get rid of the Dynamic HTML!", they cried. "Animated .gifs? À la lanterne!". "You can't read used hyperlinks if they're purple on a black background!".

And so on. Crestfallen, I took the point. the DHTML went straightaway, all other animations followed it shortly afterwards, and I changed some colours. It took me a further six months before I got the navigation system in any sort of shape or style though.

But the lesson had been learned: nobody loves a smartarse, and it's often better in these things not to show what you know. I have now become a convert to the idea of legibility being more important on a website than technically showing off. A useful lesson.

So, now Year Two begins. Where did I put that copy of "Needlessly Complicated Java Scripts For Pleasure And Profit"?