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A Seven Year Blogger Recounts His Blogging History

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in General | Posted on 06-01-2007

In many circles today I would be considered what the community refers to as a blogger.  Seven years ago though, we didn’t really have a name for it except an online journal maybe.  For those of us that had our own personal web site we just called it “cool” and thought of it as another feather in our never ending geek hats.  Back in the day (late 1999 and early 2000) those of us fortunate enough to have the know how to program and do system administration were posting news to our personal web sites hoping someone would stop by and ultimately leave us a comment on something they read.  Today this scene has changed, some would even say drastically changed.  Today, we call it blogging.  Back then, we just called it, well, nothing really.  We were just being geeks.

Recently I made the transition into one unified blog and as a result I had to go back through a lot of articles to update links, pictures, videos, and webcasts so they pointed to the correct location.  As I was updating information and pouring over my archives one thing hit me, I had been blogging for over 7 years! 


Although I don’t officially have the original posts in December of 1999, that is when I started what most people know today as “blogging”.  Back then we didn’t call it blogging.  We just called it our site “news”.  Essentially it was just a way for friends and family to read up on what we were doing or when the next capture the flag tournament in Quake was going to be held.  It was also a way for us to cut our teeth on web programming.  Probably more than anything this is what drove us, writing code.  I keep using terms like “us” and “we” because I wasn’t the only one.  Several of my friends like Joe and Paul got into the act as well.  It always seemed like we were always trying to out do the other.

I can remember when I use to run my own Quake Q3F server.  I had a dedicated static IP that ran into my apartment so what better way to use it than for online fragging.  Since the Quake server spit out log files, I parsed them and put stats on my site where players could have public bragging rights.  Having your stats show up was incredibly addictive.  Apparently this is what Microsoft is finding out about achievements in the Xbox.  I would like to say that because of my grass roots movement Xbox Live owes me a lot of royalties for this idea but I would be lying if I did.

Today Content Is King

Today we have the luxury of being alerted when someone posts a news article to their blog via RSS readers.  In late 1999 and 2000 we actually had to go to the site to see if anything new was posted.  Whenever a free moment at the computer was achieved you literally typed in a friend’s web site URL and browsed the site for new content and design changes.  Obviously if you have 100 friends, it is really hard to browse 100 sites and this is why we use RSS Readers today.  With the creation of RSS feeds and RSS readers the need to physically view a friends web site is a thing of the past, literally.  Today, a lot of bloggers spend crazy amounts of time to tweak their web site designs, only to have them never viewed by the general public because of RSS Readers.  It is humorous if you think about it.  In 1999 and 2000, you could move one image or change one little piece of design and hear about it for a week if your friends didn’t like it.  Today we can keep track of several thousand web sites with a good RSS reader so the need to visit a web site is sort of a thing of the past.  Content is more important than design.  And according to my law of any successful web site, this is going to hold true for a very long time.  I can’t think of a single web site I visit just because it looks pleasing to the eye.

Going Back In Time

One of my original blog sitsI decided to go back in time and see what was in the archives for my original blog site.  I wish the archives went further back so I could show you the real humble beginnings but Oct 18th, 2000 is as far as it goes back.  In order to find my original blog you have to go back to one of the first domains I ever purchased, Zorka.Com.

Most people that know me today will not be familiar with Zorka.Com or even know that it is a web hosting company that I started about 8-9 years ago by accident.  To lessen the confusion, here is a quick time line of events that will get you caught up:

  • 1993 – Coined myself as “ZorKa” on the Internet while obsessed with IRC(Internet Relay Chat) during college.  I logged countless hours at the dumb terminals in college and because of this, this is where I was first introduced to Unix, scripting, shells, etc.   ZorKa actually means business savvy and intelligent so I thought it fit.
  • 1997 – I purchased the domain Zorka.Com and hosted it out of our (yes I was married then) apartment on my own custom built Linux server.  We lived on campus at the University of Michigan in family housing where they gave us static IPs and 150K DSL lines.   Why let it go to waste I thought. 🙂
  • 1998 – Started hosting other domains for friends on the Zorka.Com server.
  • 1999 –  I was really heavily involved with PHP so I needed a way to vent my creative side besides writing a shopping cart for my employer.  As a result, I took the Zorka.Com domain and started building out my own personal site that was a reflection of my interests.
  • 2000  – I updated the site to the theme you see pictured.
  • 2001  – February of 2001 I stopped writing my own software for my personal site.  Time had become a factor.   I had to save time because hosting started eating up a lot of my free time along with teaching at the college.  As a result, I installed PHP Nuke to help run my site.
  • 2003 –  Zorka.Com hosting had blossomed through word of mouth and by this point I had 5 servers running in a data center.  I needed to turn the site into a real company front facing web site to assist with help desk, upgrades, etc.  As a result my blog was moved to blog.zorka.com (a subdomain).  I ran iBlog as the blog engine which copied flat html files to the server from my Powerbook.
  • 2004  – By this point I was spending all my free time doing server upgrades for Zorka.Com.  It is sad, but I didn’t even have the time to do the conversion from iBlog to WordPress myself.  As a result I paid a deserving college student who had interned with me for several years to do the port. 
  • 2006/2007 – At the turn of the new year a new blog was born once again, this time under a new domain I had been holding onto, http://keithelder.net.  Due to my heavy involvement with .Net I migrated all of my years of blogging from Zorka.Com and blog.zorka.com to http://keithelder.net/blog/ under the SubText blog engine.

Whew!  That is a mouth full needless to say.  The good news is that even through all of that, I managed to keep my blog content while moving around (comments and trackbacks I didn’t).  I don’t plan on moving my blog again for a long time either.  It is just too much work.  Not to mention my Google rankings suffer and Internet surfers can no longer find the content they were looking for because of broken links (although my previous post about redirects should help with this).

Articles Of The Past

What I always find amusing about blogging is there are times when I write something and I think it is going to be a hit with my readers.  I post what I consider a gem and it just sits there, lost in cyberspace.  Then I’ll post something weird or a review of some type of gizmo and it becomes a defacto standard.    The post that is going through the roof lately is the one I did about Rasmus publishing a new PHP book (Rasmus is credited with creating PHP for those that aren’t in the know).   Within just the past few days this post has been read about 1600 times.  Honestly, there is nothing ground breaking in this entry.  I just happened to catch Rasmus in a chat room.  We were talking about his new book and I posted about it.  I haven’t even read the book! 

It isn’t until months later when search engines index the content of a site do you really get a feel for what is popular.  I measure the long time value of posts through my server logs.  In other words, which articles stand the test of time and are read or searched for on the Internet the most. 

As I was going back through my archives and several stood out either through hit count or because of something else.  Here are my top blog entries of all time (in no official order). 

  • New PHP Book by Rasmus from O’reilly – Number one entry on the site for months.  Still haven’t even read the book.
  • Ruger P345 .45 ACP Pistol – Last year I purchased a hand gun.  It seems a lot of other people are interested in my take on it and providing self-defense for themselves.
  • Total Protect Home Warranty – Good Or Bad? – This is one of the posts I wish I was able to keep all of the comments on when moving blogs.  They were good and a lot of people basically saying, don’t do it, it isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.
  • Treo 650 vs Blackberry 7290 – This was a sort of a review I did.  While not very well written, it does provide the reader with a different insight.  Even though not a lot of people comment on it, it is read heavily with referrals from search engines.
  • Debian Installation Howto – Debian Linux install guide.  It used to get thousands of thousands of hits after it was first posted.  Today, it is a little outdated because the software has changed and people use other Debian-based distros.  Still it has been a great entry over time, even linked directly from the Debian home page at one point.
  • Apple, Open Source and State of Linux – Being entrenched in open source software as I was, this is a good post that explains my open source philosophy along with other things.  It is one of those articles that can only be written by someone that has lived through it and it has struck home with a lot of people. 
  • Switching Phone Companies to Vonage – This entry was passed around inside of Vonage recently although it had been posted years ago.  I was contacted by Vonage’s marketing department asking if they could use me in national ad campaigns.  I sent in my survey and am currently waiting to hear back.  My goal is to be the next Jared from Subway. 🙂
  • How an Open Source Developer Transitioned to .Net – Of all of the things I have written, in my blog over the years, this one entry has had the most profound affect.  It got me a trip to an ASP.Net summit at Microsoft among other accolades and I think it is now required reading for all newly hired Developer Evangelist at Microsoft. 

As you can see the top list is all over the place categorically speaking.  I would say that all of the top articles except one are still technology related. Who knows what the next seven years will bring in terms of content and posts.  Maybe kids? Maybe wood work?  Maybe an infatuation with rebuilding old cars?  How about motorcycles or even four wheelers?  The answer is I don’t know.  You’ll just have to keep reading to find out.  Cheers.

Comments (3)

Personal Logos, Do You Have One?

I am yes. You’d be correct.

Are you still the brain behind Zorka.com?

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