This week in Ideapad history

Inspired by Matt Webb, a look back in my archives at posts from Mays past.

2020: Day 67. My second post from the covid-19 lockdown. This seems like ancient and also very recent history.

2015: Job hunt best practices, wherein I spend four paragraphs explaining why I’m pointing to a different set of Ideapad blog posts from 2000. (This post got meta real fast.)

2013: Timely Demise: where are they now? A look back at what happened to the companies I profiled in my financial crisis retail blog.

2006: Girder & Panel. Still love that building, still love that game.

2004: Good songs. My son Eli and I discussed this slice of music history just this week thanks to the Strokes’ new single.

2000: Weblog geeks unite! Back when just being a blogger made you part of a community.

An incomplete list of the incomplete lists I’ve posted here over the years

An incomplete list of things our year-old Labradoodle chewed up while left home alone, July 2019

An incomplete list of things my son has figured out how to spin since discovering the Beyblade

An incomplete list of words starting with the letter “K” as suggested by the K-112 class at PS 87 this morning

An incomplete list of plot twists crammed into the 15-episode first season of ‘Smash’

An Incomplete List of Rock Stars I’ve Met in Unexpected Places

An Incomplete List Of Famous People I’ve Stood Next To In Public Restrooms

Things my dog has eaten

I also have a draft (incomplete) list of an incomplete list of animals we’ve been told our white-and-black Australian Labradoodle looks like (Dalmatian, cow, panda bear, etc.).

The “Feels Like” Forecast

Every now and again, the “Feels Like” Forecast bubbles into my consciousness—via a tweet from someone with a long memory, say, or a time-shifted reference to the day of the week not seeming right, or when a pandemic reduces our collective view of the calendar to mush. It came up again this week, so I thought I’d tell the tale of my one moment of viral internet glory, way back in the twentieth century.

The forecast dates to the era of Yahoo, back when search was useful but not ubiquitous. Yahoo was a success because it catalogued the web, back when it was somewhat feasible to do so. Early netizens saw Yahoo’s well-organized directory of links as a tool and a note of validity, which made Yahoo something of an arbiter of taste; they also had “New” and “Cool” GIF slugs that website owners craved.

In its attempts to be comprehensive, Yahoo didn’t just organize obvious links, like news and sports; they also had fun subcategories for the humor, games and fun that populated much of the early, homemade Internet (capital “i”). One of the pages I frequented was Cool Links, a regularly updated list of entertaining destinations.

At the time, there were a few online zines that were must-reads, including Slate and Salon. The latter carried some comics, including Tom the Dancing Bug, a strip I’d been reading since college. One week in 1997, this appeared:

Tom the Dancing Bug
The original “Feels Like” Forecast. Thanks to Andy Baio for hunting it down.

I thought that was a stroke of genius, and I also thought to myself, That would make for a funny website.

Now, in 1997, web programming was simple and quick; I was building pages daily for work and play. So I whipped up a real-world version of the Tom the Dancing Bug “forecast,” complete with my own predictions (e.g. long weekend? Two Saturdays, no Tuesday). I promised myself I’d update the page a few times a week, and posted it live.

In the pre-social-media era, there were two ways to get the word out: personal website cross-linking and search engines. I posted it on my site and got folks to link back to it, which started to generate traffic. I also submitted the site to Yahoo. And sure enough, they put it on their Cool Links page, complete with yahoo_new gif. (I don’t know that it ever achieved “cool” status, but for the record, those listings got shades: yahoo_cool_rating2)

Yahoo’s site used to showcase new links at the top of the page, and when the Forecast appeared, the floodgates opened. Traffic spiked by a few thousand percent. My site host warned me of an unwieldy surge in daily data transfer. Most amusingly to me, an early ad network called ValueClick invited me to add their banners, and I said sure, why not, and got a check for $127 a few months later. The spike was quick but oh so satisfying.

I kept the site up to date for nearly six years. At one point, my friend David Miller and I pulled together a PHP database and rendering engine, so I could set the forecast weeks in advance, rather than updating the HTML by hand every morning. We also put in a visitor poll. But the site was past peak, and the poll never got more than a few dozen votes, and my ad revenue slowly dwindled to zero.

A few years later, my site host updated their servers and broke our primitive PHP, so we installed a new script that keeps the dates current. That’s the last the site was touched. Around 2009, some coworkers and I relaunched the concept as a Facebook app, but it broke before we built up an audience, and the developers quickly lost interest. Not much has happened of consequence since. The Forecast had all of 327 page views in the 90 days leading up to this post.

But! I am still proud of the “Feels Like” Forecast, for a few reasons, all of them deeply personal.

  • I built a thing, amused myself, and then amused others with it.
  • I managed to create and ride a wave of viral popularity, however early and brief.
  • The site’s HTML is pristine. Look at it! The page renders perfectly and it’s 24 years old. No linkrot here, either.
  • And hey, I made a few bucks. (Very few, but hey!) Those ValueClick ad scripts are still in the page source. Maybe I should turn them back on.

Now with SSL

I’m a couple of years behind the curve on this, but Ideapad (and all of netwert.com) is now running securely. I had a joyously simple SSL setup courtesy Pair Networks, my longtime web host: a couple of clicks, a sub-$10 annual fee, and instant-on https.

This is really a post about service more than security. Pair has run my various websites for as long as I can remember, and I’ve never seriously considered moving. Over the years, their services have broadened, their prices have actually dropped on occasion, and their customer service accessibility has never wavered. For all the posts I see on Twitter and elsewhere complaining about hosting services–whether it’s “seriously considering a new webhost; mine messed up [X] and I’ve had enough” or “AWS is amazing and then you get the bill”–I’ve never once gotten fed up with the folks at Pair.

I have a tendency to get loyal when I find something good, and why not? Variety is good but consistency deserves to be rewarded. Pair gets the little things right. And for that, you and I get a more secure blogging experience.

18

The Ideapad turns eighteen today. I first posted here on November 1, 1998, with a nod to Jason Kottke (who renewed his own commitment to blogging today with the launch of a membership program).

My blog isn’t the hotbed of activity it was in the early aughts, but it remains a going concern for me, and I remain immensely proud of that. I often wonder how many of the 500 or so weblogs in the first Eatonweb portal are still chugging along—however many there are, this is, and shall remain, one of them.

Day 1 with an Apple Watch

I’m on Day Four wearing my Apple Watch, and I like it very much. I’m finding it useful, attractive, comfortable, interesting and fun.

Of course, my first day wearing it was something else entirely. And while reviewers intentionally give new products some breathing room, I thought I’d take a stab at quantifying the first impressions of a Watch wearer. This is a product with a learning curve—does it create impediments? Frustrated expectations? Or would it all be part of the fun?

So I live-tweeted my day getting used to the watch (to the chagrin of my friends on Facebook, where my tweets cross-post). I’m a few days removed from the experience, so they are presented below as-is. All in all, it was a very good first day.

Job hunt best practices

We’ve been doing a fair amount of hiring at the office of late, and my reputation as a stickler for detail has rapidly resurfaced. Colleagues are amused at how I’ll give my head of research a hard time for interviewing a candidate with a pair of typos in his or her resume and how I’m parsing the grammar on thank-you notes.

I stand by my practices, because the printed form says a lot about a person: attention to detail, communication skills, drive. The same holds true for the interviews I get to take, where I can spend more time gauging someone’s intellect, curiosity, and enthusiasm for the position (even though I think Seth Godin is onto something, and my interviews typically run 40 minutes).

So I was going to do a write-up on resume and interview best practices, and then I remembered that I did this already, way back in 2000. The tips contained therein are still accurate and sound. Well, maybe not the note about avoiding italics for fax machines, but the rest of it.

If you’re on the market, or will be soon, take a read:
How to Succeed at Getting Hired (and Lots of Ways Not To)
Good luck with your search!

Fifteen

When I launched the Ideapad, on November 1, 1998, it was rather ugly, it cribbed off others, and it didn’t even have its own directory.* But what it was, it miraculously still is: a home online for me to publish independently, everything from mundane thoughts on shopping and puppies to important perspectives on usability, digital life, the Internet business and my own evolution.

Fifteen years on, the Ideapad is one of the world’s oldest and longest-running online blogs, which I take less with surprise or pride so much as contentedness. The good ol’ ‘Pad is still here. I’ve gone through a couple of phases where I almost stopped writing—once, I even blogged about not blogging, and promptly lost half my audience–and in retrospect the best thing about this page is its consistency.

I’ve had more than my share of reminiscences in this space over the past few months, so it’s best to look forward here, to many more years of satisfying self-publishing. Thanks for reading.

-David

* My incredulous kudos go out to Net Access, my old web host, for fighting link rot and keeping my old directory live, for more than a decade of uptime since I deactivated my account. I’m not even sure they have individual user accounts anymore, but my old pages are still live. The World Wide Web purist in me is very appreciative of this.

The all-new Ideapad

Hello from 2013! This page is still a bit of a work in progress, but I’ve migrated Ideapad to WordPress, after many reliable years on Movable Type. Some visual and structural updates were overdue, and while launching a WP blog is far from revolutionary, it’s a breath of fresh air around here.

In the update, I’ve also, for the first time, done a proper content migration. All my blog posts from 2001 to the present, covering the MT era and prior years in a home-rolled PHP CMS, have been pulled into the new layout. I seem to have lost some paragraph spacing in the transition, but all the entries are properly categorized with working HTML.

At the same time, I’ve managed to maintain my flat-file archives dating to 1998, which I invite you to explore, if only to laugh at the things that were interesting to me a dozen years ago.

Welcome.

My thanks to David Miller for ongoing tech support.

Mazel tov

I missed the big day last week, but Ideapad turned 13 on November 1.
It isn’t often a blog becomes a bar mitzvah, so let us briefly celebrate the occasion. (I suppose I should really post this on a Saturday.)
For comparison’s sake, this site is thee years older than the original iPod.