Now for the Hard Part

I’ve finished reposting content to the site and feel pretty good about the state everything is in now. Hallelujah!

Using Joomla to manage the backend is something I kind of wish I had discovered years back, as I realize now how much time it would have saved me. After all, this website has been around in various forms and at various URLs since 1999. Anybody remember GeoCities? I started out in the coveted Area51 block. Yeah. Fifteen years of literally spending days coding in Notepad and Notepad++, learning HTML, CSS, PHP, and a bit of JavaScript from scratch and by examining the source code of other websites, and then being forced to go back and redo whenever the standards changed, things were depreciated, etc.

Fifteen years manually trying to build features for this website—and much of what I spent the most time on actually made very little difference to what visitors could see on the frontend! Now I understand that a lot of what I was trying to do all those years was actually to build my own CMS…and all along there were solutions like Joomla (and other CMS platforms) out there that could have saved me the effort of not having to work on coding. There were other factors of course, real life stuff that kept pulling my attention elsewhere, but the site so often sat neglected simply because I ran out of energy to work on that unfinished backend code that was making it harder to maintain the frontend content simply because it wasn’t finished. Bleh.

Now I’ve been able to get the website redone and content reposted in what actually amounts to just a few days of effort over the course of a couple of months. That’s pretty satisfying for me, and when I look at the front page and click through to see how things load up, I feel pleased that my little corner of the internet is working again. But…at the same time I still kind of miss all that manual coding. I do enjoy it and there was a sense of pride associated with having the knowledge to build the website myself. As I get older, though, life gets more complicated and I have less time for coding. I realize the website is just the framework that holds the content and the framework itself isn’t content. It’s more important to get articles done than making sure the backend code is finished. Let someone else worry about that. Okay—so Joomla was the solution I chose, and here I am.

Now I have to face the fact that so much of the actual content is out of date. That’s the hard part. Using Joomla to repost what I had written was easy. Using Joomla to decide how I wanted that content to look was easy. Sure, the template still has a few bugs in it and there are things I need to change that will improve the frontend experience…but overall, after the template was installed and tweaked, all I had to do was copy/paste from my old PHP files and the old database, and FTP some images to the server. That’s not really work.

The work is knowing the Photoshop Tutorials are seven or more software versions behind, so I should at least update them to the version I’m using today (which isn’t current either, but still newer than 7.0 or CS2). The work is in realizing it’s been over five years since the last time I drew something that wasn’t related to a particular project, so I should really dust off my old Cintiq and finish some of the half-done pictures still laying around. The work is in noticing the most recent Photostream I did was posted about a year and a half ago, so I should really dig up more of my photos and make new ones. The work is seeing that my most recent brainstorming notes for Heart of the Empire (HOTE) are from 2011, so I should really get around to doing that rewrite and building more of that world.

The work is in knowing the website sat stagnant for so long that all my old visitors have long since moved on, so I should get new content to attract a new audience.

HOTE is still a big deal to me. Even though most of my creative energy over the last few years has been given to Solitary Pilot, I’ve often spared thoughts for HOTE and its unfinished state. Originally my goal had been to just get the story written from start to finish regardless of how terrible the draft was going to be. The important thing was to just get it done, and I haven’t done that yet. The more I wrote, the more the problem with the timeline loomed over me and that made it more difficult to keep moving forward. So…rewrite. The notes from 2011 are actually a brainstorming session with my friend John Kastronis where we solved the timeline problem (much thanks!) so now I just…need to do the work.

Actually, I’m pretty excited about it. Wish me luck!